Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White was a featured keynote speaker for the recent New Media Expo (MNX) earlier this week (Jan. 6, 2013) in Las Vegas, Nevada (watch it here). Among the bevy of topics he discussed was the always-hot issue of concussions in the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) and the dangers it can pose to fighters.
When talking injuries, most look to the obvious ones such as cuts to the face, bum shoulders and knees, etc.
However in the midst of all the punches to the face and head, fighters often suffer concussions, which according to White, warrants a three month suspension with no contact unless cleared sooner by a doctor.
Compared to the National Football League (NFL), the UFC is a bit more ‘cautious' when it comes to head injuries because they go "above and beyond" when it pertains to fighter safety. In the NFL, a player can return in a little as a week's time because, as White puts it, 'You can't lose Tom Brady for three months or else the team's entire season is wiped out.'
The UFC's and MMA's stricter rules is the reason why White is confident in saying his sport is indeed the safest one in the world.
"Concussion is a huge dilemma right now for the NFL. Here's the difference between the UFC and the NFL as far as concussions are concerned. First of all, if you get a concussion, if you get knocked out or you get hurt whatsoever in the UFC, three months suspension. You are on suspension for three months and you cannot come back until you are cleared by a doctor. You can't have any contact whatsoever. In the NFL, you're not going to lose Tom Brady for three months, man. You lose Tom Brady for three months and your whole season is wiped out. So, the UFC, listen, we don't hide from it, it's a contact sport and that's what these guys do, (is) much safer. In the 20-year history of the UFC, it will be 20-years in November, there has never been a death or a serious injury. Never been a death or serious injury in 20 years because we go above and beyond when it comes to the safety of these guys. When you know you have two healthy athletes getting ready to compete, they get the proper medical attention before and after, it's the safest sport in the world, fact."
The after-effects of multiple concussions can be everlasting, as is the case with former MMA star Gary Goodridge, who, after 47 MMA fights and countless kickboxing battles, now suffers from dementia pugilistica, a neurodegenerative disease that affects fighters and athletes who suffer from multiple concussions and/or blows to the head.
In "Big Daddy's" case, who is now retired from fighting, he says he feels the majority of the damage he suffered came from his K-1 kickboxing matches, not MMA, and does "not regret" any decisions he made to fight.
Perhaps this is the reason UFC officials pride themselves in all the precautions they take when it comes to fighter safety, especially head injuries, even if it means shelving fighters for up to 90 days.
Can you blame them?