The latest high profile UFC injury victim, Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo. Photo by Esther Lin, via MMA Fighting
Just over a year ago, the UFC and Zuffa put in place a groundbreaking policy of insuring its fighters to help take the brunt of medical costs for injuries and ailments suffered while a fighter is in training. Since being implemented we have seen countless fights fall through, even marquee main events due to withdrawal due to injury, often gutting the quality of a card. Has the UFC fighter insurance been good for the fighters, but bad for the sport?
T.P. Grant: I think this is more of a function of fighters and gyms needing to learn how to train safely. The number of injuries is just getting absurd and it really begs the question of what exactly is going on at these fight camps? How often are big time boxing matches called off due to injury or NCAA wrestlers forced to pull out from major tournaments? Oh it happens, but not on the level we are currently seeing in MMA. Coaches in those sports have over a century of training wisdom to draw upon when it comes down to how to train and how hard to work their athletes.
Josh Nason: The amount of cards and overall fighters hurt makes it more glaring. I do think the insurance obviously prevents guys from competing when they shouldn't, but that's a good thing.
As long as the UFC doctors are verifying injuries, unfortunately there isn't much to change. It's hard to tone down training like most are assuming but perhaps re-examining things is a nod toward the sport's evolution.
Fraser Coffeen: I'm with both Grant and Nason on this one. If you say that the insurance policy is to blame, what you're essentially arguing is that these guys SHOULD be fighting injured, because if they didn't have insurance, they'd fight through these injuries. But that's not good. You could also be saying that guys are milking more minor injuries, but a lot of the more recent big injuries (Cruz, GSP) are major injuries, so that doesn't make sense, either.
The real question is the one already brought up - why are these guys getting so injured in training? And I think that's a fundamental issue that dates back to the early days of MMA. Some of the most legendary early camps, like Chute Boxe and Ken Shamrock's Lion's Den, were notorious for being brutally hard places to train. They went hard every single day, and yes, maybe that made them better fighters in the short term, but it's also not good for their long term health.
And perhaps that's just what we're seeing here. Perhaps MMA is just inevitably more like the NFL where your time as an active participant is relatively short for most people, as opposed to boxing or kickboxing where a lot of fighters have lengthier careers. So guys are going very hard to have a brief run of glory at the top rather than a sustained career.
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Josh Nason: In comparison to other sports, guys / girls do get injured pretty frequently but with team sports, you obviously have others to pick up the slack and step in. In an individual sport like MMA, it stands out more because the individual is removed.
This is one of those deals where there really isn't a good answer on how to solve it. It's unfortunate because I feel a lot of frustration with the constant shuffling, but less shows would definitely help ease that pain. (Sorry to beat that dead horse again.)
KJ Gould: I don't get the 'less shows' argument, it won't help any. Fighters generally in the UFC aren't fighting with any more frequency than before, with the odd exceptions. If anything UFC has more fighters on the books to fill out the shows they do have. Cutting the fat of the roster and having less shows doesn't address the injury situation, and actually leaves them with less replacements to draw upon not already under contract.
Maybe a lot of these fighters and even technical coaches have got suckered into the infomercial marketing of P90x, Insanity, Cave Man training or whatever you want to call it, instead of looking into what the other pro sports have tried and tested over decades. Maybe it's time for the MMA industry to start from scratch, make exercise sport specific, and embrace the importance of rest and recovery as well as nutrition in order to see progress.
Continue reading after the jump.
Josh Nason: Here's what I mean by that:
- Less shows will mean better top to bottom cards. With less opportunities, much of the flotsam and jetsam wouldn't be in the UFC.
- If someone gets injured, you can withstand it as you simply move fights up the card. Because they're of more quality, the public perception would be eased because you're still getting a great show.
If you combined the best fights from the July shows, you'd have a hell of a 12-fight event. Instead, you move Rich Franklin to a nothing late-June PPV, Shogun to fight Vera in August for a Fox show and Faber/Barao to headline an already thinned out Calgary show.
It won't lessen injuries, but it will lessen the financial impact of 'This looks great. Let's buy it!' to 'That card sucks.' I'm thinking of the casual fan instead of the hardcore one.
Fraser Coffeen: I see what you're saying here, but I think that's a short term decision that hurts you in the long run. The UFC really needs some new stars, but in order to do that, they need to be putting guys on their shows. You could have written Chan Sung Jung off after his WEC run and not brought him in, but if you had done that, you'd be looking at one less main eventer in the FW division. They need the roster to help them build talent.
They have talent, but the 'call to action' of paying to watch guys is lost with all of the events.