Once flying under the radar as a ‘guilty pleasure,’ MMA has evolved so much as a sport. Now finally experiencing status as a mainstream pursuit, mixed martial arts is still not free from worries. During a contest in Dublin, Ireland last April. Portuguese MMA fighter Joao Carvalho suffered a fatal brain injury. The tragic circumstances of the event led to massive debate about the safety of MMA in Ireland. Ironically it was the very man who helped make MMA popular in Ireland, Conor McGregor, present in the final waking moments of Carvalho’s life.
Charlie Ward, McGregor’s teammate, was the man who defeated Carvalho by TKO. The media and Irish sports ministers condemned mixed martial arts, claiming it was an atrocity that children were present as Carvalho was ‘beaten to death.’ Spurring more research in to CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy), Carvalho’s shocking passing will hopefully lead to a better future for fighters. As per The Irish Independent, professor Dan Healy says he is working towards a generation of CTE-free fighters:
Healy Wants To Learn Lessons From Joao’s Sad Case
“I’d like to see every young man and woman who decides to fight to do so knowing that every possible avoidable risk has been minimised,” he said.
“I’ve seen five brain haemorrhages in Irish MMA. The fighters were a variety of ages, both amateur and professional. It included people in their twenties and early thirties. CTE concerns me more than anything about all combat sports. This can be the first generation of fighters ever who don’t get CTE.”
Given his connection to the sorrowful events in Dublin, Conor McGregor had expressed his own concerns about brain damage, even death in the UFC octagon. The former two-weight world champion’s coach, John Kavangh says McGregor’s entire style was built to avoid damaging blows:
“It’s a concern of every fighter. At that level of fighting the risk is very real,” Kavanagh said. But I think you can add on two hands the number of clean head shots Conor has taken in 10 years of pro-fighting. His style of fighting answers that, because his style is not brawling. He doesn’t step in the pocket and exchange punches.
His style is in and out – he’s very defensive. That style was born through not wanting to lose and not wanting to take head shots, and not wanting to damage the software.”
Much like in the US in the mid-2000’s, MMA is in a state of debate in Ireland. Perhaps Conor McGregor’s status as the UFC’s biggest star can make him an ambassador of sorts, and lead to positive results in all respects.