Ultraviolet (UV) signals are used in female mate choice in numerous taxa; however, the role of UV signals in male contests remains relatively unexplored. We experimentally reduced throat UV of free-ranging lizards (Platysaurus broadleyi) to test whether UV acts as a signal of fighting ability during male contests. We found that UV-reduced males were more likely to be challenged than control males. However, contest outcome was not influenced by UV-reduction, and this was despite other obvious asymmetries between opponents, such as body size and residency. Throat UV was confirmed as a signal of fighting ability because contests were more likely to escalate when one contestant had reduced UV. Therefore, throat UV, not body size or residency, was used during the initial stage of opponent assessment, but this did not influence contest outcome. The results suggest that UV overrides other traits that could function as signals during rival assessment.