Swedish MMA Federation Stands by Decision to Pull Alexander Gustafsson

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Swedish MMA Federation Stands by Decision to Pull Alexander Gustafsson
Gustafsson's wound (courtesy of TheMauler.com)

The decision to yank Alexander Gustafsson from the main event at UFC on Fuel 9 last weekend in Sweden has caused quite a headache for the Swedish Mixed Martial Arts Federation (SMMAF).

Gustafsson suffered a cut in training the week prior to his scheduled main event against Gegard Mousasi.  The fighter had doctors in Sweden check the cut once he arrived back in his home country, and due to the nature of the cut they opted to pull him from the card all together.

Just hours before the event began however, a photo of Gustafsson was taken while being interviewed and the cut seemed to almost disappear by that point. The invisible nature of the cut led UFC president Dana White to lash out at the commission calling it the "worst decision I have ever seen to pull (a) fight."

Gustafsson's friend and former teammate Ilir Latifi ended up in the main event, which he lost by unanimous decision.

Now just under a week after the event, the SMMAF has released a statement via email to Bleacher Report where they stand by their initial decision to pull Gustafsson from the card after doctors examined the cut.

On Saturday the 30th of March a SMMAF doctor examined Mr. Alexander Gustafsson and forwarded images of the injury, pre and post sutures, to two other SMMAF doctors. Together they made the assessment that Gustafsson’s injury was of such a nature that he would not be able to compete nor partake in full–contact sparring for another 6 weeks or more without risking further injury and that it was highly unlikely that he would be cleared at the medical check the day before the match. The cut was both wide and deep and in a sensitive area. Consequently, he could not at that time be deemed fit to safely compete in the match. It was formally decided on the 2nd of April that Gustafsson´s match was stopped through the ruling of the Medical Committee. Questions have been raised regarding the assessment of the Medical Committee and the SMMAF board has requested we supply the Federation with a formal clarification on the details of the decision.

Going into further detail, the commission explains that while the superficial nature of the wound appears healed to the naked eye, the damage is still there and could open back up with minimal contact. 

In the event of a wound of this nature, it will be enough with only a moderate impact in the eye area for the wound to open up again. In elite level contact sports it is highly probable for that to occur and thus causing the wound to bleed profusely, escalated by the fact that in this stage of the healing process there is an increase of vascular density in the surrounding tissue. The bleeding would be of such intensity that a stoppage of the match is highly likely, since the vision would be occluded.

The caveat to this entire situation was the fact that Gustafsson's cut was reviewed five days before the fight took place while the cut was still fresh.  In the statement, the SMMAF admits that if they had only seen Gustafsson on the day before the fights at the weigh-ins they may have ruled in his favor to compete.

Once they saw the cut that Monday before the fights, however, there was no way they could clear him, given the nature of the gash that was opened below his eyebrow.

Had the Medical Committee not been asked to examine the wound at this early stage nor been privy to information regarding the injury, there is a possibility that Gustafsson might have been cleared at an inspection on April 5th. The extent to which a wound of this type appears healed after a week will vary. However, such speculation is not relevant in this case since the Medical Committee had in fact already performed an examination. Consequently; letting an athlete compete in an elite level full contact sport based on what appears to be a healed scar, but fully informed of the fact that the injury is far from healed and the obvious risks that come with it, would be a severe breach of medical ethics as well as in this respect also against the law.

Since the event ended, Gustafsson has stated he hopes to return to action as soon as the UFC can book him in a fight, and will be on potential stand-by to step into a big fight if the promotion needs him. 

Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

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