Last night, UFC fighter Matt Hamill stepped into the cage with what looked like a living being attached to his back. It turned out to be a staph infection, a potentially dangerous bacteria that can kill. Was it wise for him to enter the cage? The Nevada State Athletic Commission apparently thought so, but MMA Junkie medical columnist Dr. Johnny Benjamin believes otherwise:
As I have written many times before, I have the utmost respect for Keith Kizer, the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) executive director. Mr. Kizer did exactly what he was supposed to do when he was alerted to the suspicious rash. He ordered his medical expert to assess the situation and to advise him on the most prudent course of action.
In my opinion, the NSAC was victim of a poor medical decision. Furthermore, every athlete (including Hamill) and referee that entered the octagon – with or after Hamill – was unnecessarily exposed to a potentially very serious and deadly infection by the "licensed doctor" who cleared him to compete.
Can I be any clearer?
As a physician tasked with the responsibility of promoting player/fighter safety, deciding to allow a clearly infected athlete to compete is astonishing to me. As a doctor, if there is any significant question in your mind regarding an athlete's health, you must err on the side of caution and disallow the fighter in question. The potential risks do not outweigh the potential benefit.
The Nevada Commission has come under fire this year for a string of controversial decisions. They allowed 47-year old Evander Holyfield back in the boxing ring despite signs the fighter is losing his mental faculties. Boxing blog The Sweet Science put it bluntly:
The sanctioning of a fight between 47-year-old Evander Holyfield, who is barely capable of still winning an argument let alone a fight, and 41-year-old South African Frans "The White Buffalo’’ Botha is absurd on the face of it but coming on the heels of the NSAC allowing so well shot he’s riddled Roy Jones, Jr. to fight in Las Vegas last weekend against moderately shot Bernard Hopkins makes one thing clear – the Nevada State Athletic Commission should be disbanded.
I mean, what’s the point? What are they regulating? Are they even still empowered to do anything but rubber stamp anything any promoter willing to bring two cadavers to ringside wants?
Under Marc Ratner, Nevada had the most respected athletic commission in the country. They were able to protect fighters while also allowing the freedom for promoters to create huge money events. Under Kizer's leadership it seems more and more clear that money is the main motivator. One thing is certain-Nevada owes the fighters more, and it was Kizer's responsibility to protect them. It's not just a matter of finance-with staph it can be a matter of life and death.