The UFC is beginning to truly invest in it’s athletes long term health, in and outside the octagon. This is most recently exemplified by the companies involvement with the Cleveland Clinic’s Professional Athletes Brain Health Study. A recent report (via MMA Junkie) revealed that the UFC have committed a total of three million dollars to the study. The company has pledged to support the Clinic’s study for a further five years, in hopes on minimizing chances of it’s athletes suffering from long term brain trauma in the future.
Speaking to MMA Junkie, UFC chief operating officer Lawrence Epstein had the following to say:
“We have been partnered with the Cleveland Clinic now for a decade, and we’re proud that we’ve already committed more than $2 million in funding the study,” “This entire relationship the UFC, our athletes, and the entire Cleveland Clinic have has frankly become central to the UFC and really intertwined with the DNA of our organization.
“Over the last 10 years, a tremendous amount of data has been generated as a result of the studies that have been done. That data has been used in 31, to date, peer-reviewed articles and journals about the findings from this first-of-its-kind study. From the UFC standpoint, we’re incredibly proud to have been a part of this up to date, and we’re even more proud to be committing for another five years.”
The impact of the UFC not only acknowledging the potential long-term effects the sport can have, but also actively looking for solutions cannot be understated. With the recent revelations in regard to CTE in the NFL, it is essential that major sports organizations take care of their athletes, even when they retire from the sport.
Previously there have been examples of UFC athletes take matters in to their own hands. UFC heavyweight Curtis Blaydes has previously made headlines by stating that he will not pander to the fans wishes for him to recklessly brawl. He instead relies heavily on his wrestling game, meaning that he often takes minimal damage in his fights. However, the Cleveland Clinic is now developing methods to predict individual athletes who may be at risk of developing CTE.
Epstein stated that “what we’re looking for is we want this type of analysis to become a fundamental part of the regulation of combat sports.” “So for example, in order to get licensed as a boxer and MMA athlete in virtually every state, you have to take an eye exam. If that eye exam reveals a detached retina, you can’t fight. We want to get to the same place in respect to the brain, where if there’s a genetic marker or some other evidence which indicates somebody is predisposed toward brain injury or there are early indications before someone starts presenting a cognitive deficit that we can see, we can get the people out of the sport before they get injured.”
“This is not about diagnosing people afterwards. This is about preventing injury from taking place in the first place.”
With a sport such as MMA there will always be a level of risk, simply due it’s very nature. However, it is imperative that the organizations running the sport take as many precautionary measures as possible. The UFC’s involvement with this study is a major step forward, and should act as example, not only to other MMA organizations, but to the whole sporting industry.