The referee of the bout between Kim Couture and Sheila Bird wasn't the only one who left his brain at home this past weekend. Photo by Sherdog.com.
The hits just keep on coming, don't they? The landscape of mixed martial arts is littered with examples of incompetence, and just when you think you've found an example of what could be considered the epitome of such incompetence -- think again.
It was revealed over the last couple of days that the Calgary Combative Sports Commission signed off on a bout between female mixed martial artists Kim Couture and Sheila Bird without realizing that Couture was indefinitely suspended by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. The suspension stemmed from the aftermath of a bout with Muhah Holland at Ring of Combat 32 in October of last year, requiring Couture to see specialists in order to get cleared to fight again. Couture had her jaw surgically repaired in February, an injury that was incurred in her first professional bout back in June of 2008 and may or may not have been part of the original suspension in the first place. See our own Fraser Coffeen's piece that was posted today for a complete rundown of the details
Couture's camp forwarded information to both commissions. The problem, however, was that NJASCB's head Nick Lembo was looking for proof that she had been checked out by specialists in regards to the damage from the Holland bout, not a pre-existing jaw injury. To make matters worse, Lembo didn't receive the information until 6 PM on the night of the fight.
The NJSAC commissioner said the strikes that Couture sustained during her bout in New Jersey were serious, and following her decision loss, an NJSACB-approved physician suspended her indefinitely. To be cleared, she was required to get a CT scan of her facial bones and needed a green light from an ENT doctor.
"Very late in the game, and the wrong paperwork," Lembo said. "So, simply put, Calgary and Kim were notified that we were not lifting the suspension." (MMAJunkie.com)
Couture doesn't see what the big deal is, defending her choice to ignore the suspension by claiming she didn't know the suspension was indefinite and telling MMAJunkie.com that the entire ordeal is being blown out of proportion:
"I think people like a story - they like to sensationalize everything and make a bigger deal out of it than it was," she said. "I got up on my own two feet. My equilibrium was fine; I was smiling and waving at the crowd."
There are so many things wrong with this entire situation that it's mind-boggling that someone is this ignorant to why these procedures are in place. She claims she didn't know she was on an indefinite suspension, yet forwarded documents to both commissions regarding a surgery literally hours before her fight with Sheila Bird was about to take place. And to top it off, she doesn't understand why this is a story. We are sensationalizing a story that focuses solely on what many of us prioritize as a prominent issue in mixed martial arts. Fighter safety.
Sure, each of these fighters is taking a risk by fighting. We know that, and it's an accepted risk by the athletes who perform inside the cage day in and day out. But that doesn't mean that we should allow fighters to simply ignore what a medical professional tells them. If we can stop a fighter from dying on the canvas because he has a popped blood vessel in his brain in the lead-up to a fight, it needs to happen.
Couture's situation wasn't that serious. It was, however, a situation that could have potentially ended much uglier with her face rearranged and mangled because her facial fractures didn't heal properly. Perhaps a bone was set incorrectly and could potentially puncture something vital. Does brain trauma ring a bell? There are various scenarios, and Couture chose to ignore those outcomes and put herself at risk.
The more prominent culprit of ignorance here is the Calgary Combative Sports Commission. It's their job to stop fighters from putting themselves into situations of serious risk. In reality, it's their only job.
As we have come to know from the myriad of interviews from past legends of the sport, fighters are a different breed. They will go into the cage to fight with broken arms and legs despite the fact that they are one brutal blow away from being incapacitated. Whether it be money or pride, many fighters push the limits of their bodies, even when something is seriously wrong.
The fact that somebody at the CCSC couldn't check a database is about as lazy as it gets. But I also know from my day job that users can be morons. Unbelievably lazy morons. If it isn't an automated process, count on someone being lazy enough to not do their job and miss a checkbox on their checklist. I know it's tough to click a mouse, type in a few numbers or a name, and pull up a suspension notice. Kenny Powers wouldn't approve, and neither do I.
As an avid fan of the sport and a proponent of keeping fighters safe, I'm sick and tired of reading these stories and shaking my head. What will it take for idiocy like this to stop? Do we need to integrate this database into the medical system? If you go in for a pre-fight medical at a doctor's office and you're social security number is checked in at the desk, does a giant red box need to appear saying fighter A can't be approved. I know what you're thinking. That would cost too much money for somebody to actually do. You're probably right.
The Calgary Combative Sports Commission should be punished in some way, either with a hefty fine or a moratorium on events held under their jurisdiction for a period of time. Kim Couture should also have further disciplinary action taken on her due to ignoring the indefinite suspension. Calgary should have stopped her, but she also contributed to the problem.
This isn't about sensationalizing a story, Kim. It's about protecting fighters like you who think medical suspensions are just guidelines. They aren't. They are a means to stopping fighters from harming themselves when they have full knowledge, or even no knowledge, of something serious going on in their bodies. I'm sure Brian Foster, who wasn't cleared to fight Sean Pierson at UFC 129 due to a brain hemmorhage, is thankful that it was caught. He could have died if he sustained enough punishment. Don't hide behind the fact that you thought it was a standard suspension. It's your job to know those things.