If you get punched in the head for a living, chances are you're going to suffer some degree of brain damage.
But to what degree is difficult to measure. As is the timeline in which potential effects can occur. Retired Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight Krzysztof Soszynski, just 37, struggles to count backwards from 20 and frequently suffers from memory loss.
Tito Ortiz told Inside MMA it might be time for top mixed martial arts (MMA) promotions to start thinking about longterm care for the combatants who generate "blood money" inside the cage, particularly as more and more fighters exhibit signs of mental illness.
"Us fighters put our lives on the line to entertain the fans that watch. Look at Jason 'Mayhem' Miller, War Machine. I'm not defending anything they did. Everything they did was wrong in their own right, but a lot of these fighters take a lot of head trauma, head damage, as you see in professional football. Maybe UFC and Bellator should take care of the fighters when their careers are done, as the NFL takes care of their players. Because they're making so much money off us. It's blood money. Going back to Mayhem, I think helping a guy like him is very needed."
UFC currently offers health insurance to all active fighters (details).
Miller, who hasn't competed since early 2012, is once again in trouble with the law after a series of bizarre public outbursts, sandwiched around a pair of arrests. A suicidal "War Machine," meanwhile, was incarcerated on charges of beating up his ex-girlfriend, Christy Mack.
Would the NFL model work in UFC or Bellator? MMA Fighting has one possible answer:
"With no collective bargaining to speak of, fighters remain independent contractors without an athlete's union working towards those benefits. While the National Football League Player's Association has worked alongside the NFL to create programs like the '88 Plan,' which 'provides retired players up to $88,000 per year for medical and custodial care resulting from dementia, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's,' current players are still asking NFL commissioner Roger Goddell why the league isn't offering more extensive long-term care for current and former players."
Sounds like some current fighters are asking that same question.
But how much liability should promotions have in the fight game? That's a tough question, since the goal of combat sports is to strike your opponent until they are either unconscious, unable to defend themselves, or submit to avoid serious injury. Heck, guys are even getting concussed in grappling practice.
How about you?