It's a strange thing to see in MMA. Not because we don't see it in other sports (we certainly do), but because in a sport like MMA, where the fighter has so much control over whether or not he takes fights or not, it's surprising to see fighters voluntarily take long term leave of the sport over head trauma. Don't get me wrong, it's a good thing. But, it runs counter to expectations.
The most notable fighter to take an extended leave of the sport due to brain trauma is former no. 1 contender T.J. Grant. Following a concussion, sustained during a BJJ grappling session, Grant has been suffering from long term symptoms. Concussion fears have also ended the UFC careers of Mac Danzig, and Nick Denis. Denis was only 28 at the time. Now it appears the effects of brain trauma have sidelined a much greener prospect, Ultimate Fighter season 18 winner, Chris Holdsworth.
Holdsworth suffered his first concussion while training for his TUF 18 Finale bout against Davey Grant, and received a second concussion training for his next fight against Chico Camus. The Team Alpha Male fighter recently spoke to MMA Fighting about his road to recovery and putting his MMA career on hold, indefinitely:
"I definitely think people rush back from injuries and rush back from head trauma in general," Holdsworth said. "These things take a lot longer than people think and everyone is like, 'When are we gonna see you back?' It's like, man -- when I'm healthy to fight. My health is more important than anything else."
"I think I rushed back into things from the finale," Holdsworth said. "I should have took some more time off. I just didn't know any better. I was feeling good. I felt 100 percent, but realistically I still had trauma. I still needed to heal up."
"As I'm getting older, I'm starting to learn that it's better to train smarter than harder," Holdsworth said. "We don't get paid in the gym; we get paid to fight. You've gotta conserve you body and most importantly conserve your brain."
Although the road to recovery has been a lot longer than Holdsworth planned, he says that he has not given "one thought at all" to whether this would put a stop to his goal of becoming UFC champion. For his sake, hopefully he can in fact recover fully from the trauma he's suffered, to continue competing. But of course, there are no guarantees. For some, symptoms can last years, or even be permanent. Holdsworth's goals of title contention may not be gone yet, but they could be a long way away.