If there is one tangible byproduct of a fighter’s career that will last far beyond glory, it is that of damage.
As fans, we grimace in empathy as our favorite fighters get caught with that blow that puts them on wobbly legs. It’s the cost of living vicariously through men and women who engage in bloody combat.
Let’s make no mistake about it; professional prize fighting is nothing more than legalized assault. In that kind of situation, someone is going to get hurt, more often than not. Dana White may refer to a new fighter as “kid,” but there is no kidding around in MMA. This is a hurt sport, just like boxing.
Sometimes, given the impressive safety record of MMA, we forget that. We point our finger to the fatalities that occurred through the years in boxing, as if no MMA fighter will ever suffer the same fate.
Yet they already have. Granted, not on a big stage, but there have been eight deaths in MMA since the late 1990s. Obviously, these were at small shows, some of which were unsanctioned, but it’s there, like a wine stain on the table cloth.
But stain or no stain, people still gather around that table to eat, for lack of a better term, and sometimes they get hurt. Sometimes a certain few get hurt more than others for any number of reasons.
As we learn more and more about head/brain trauma in the combative sports, for every answer we seem to discover two more questions. One danger that seems to be finally getting the attention it deserves is that of SIS, or Second Impact Syndrome; a frightening situation that rarely passes without some tragic sign of its visit.
And yet, for every cautionary tale, a fighter like Wanderlei Silva—who by all accounts has taken enough damage for any 10 men—makes a kind of late career comeback that get’s people to thinking that maybe, just maybe, it’s a bunch of Poindexters with medical degrees trying to make tornadoes in a tea cup.
But it’s really not. We owe it to these incredible fighters to take some time to acknowledge what they endure for our pleasure and their own love of the sport.