DAN VANCE: UFC is saving fighters like Mark Hunt from themselves
Concerns of brain injury as a reason to pull a professional fighter from a fight card. Why is this even something to debate?
Yet, it is one of the crucial areas of contention this week after the UFC pulled Mark Hunt off of its November 19 card in Sydney, Australia after he himself expressed confusion to some parts of his memory during a fighting career that has spanned 19 years.
It was in “Players Voice,” an Australian version of The Players Tribune, where Hunt discussed being able to remember things from years past, but remaining fuzzy about things in the short term.
“Sometimes, I don’t sleep well. You can hear me starting to stutter and slur my words,” Hunt wrote in the article. “I’ll forget something I did yesterday but can remember [expletive] I did years ago. That’s just the price I’ve paid — the price of being a fighter.”
A day later, the UFC pulled him from his scheduled fight until further testing, sending Hunt on an expletive-filled rampage on social media against the world’s largest fight company and their president, Dana White.
It split the MMA community right down the middle. But why?
This should not be a debate. As hotly contested as the discussions about proper concussion protocol is and the ongoing revelations about CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), especially in the National Football League, brain injuries should be cut and dry. Minor, major, in the middle — a brain injury is a brain injury and no athlete should be forced or allowed to continue to participate when a red flag is raised, especially by the participant himself.
We can face the fact that there are more facets to this story than meets the eye in a headline. Hunt is currently engaged in a legal battle with the UFC regarding what he believes was neglect in allowing him to fight Brock Lesnar at UFC 200 in the summer of 2016. Lesnar failed a post-fight drug screen for clomiphene, an estrogen blocker, and Hunt contends that the UFC and White were well aware that Lesnar was on a performance enhancer prior to his win over Hunt.
So would the UFC have pulled a name like Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey from a card if they expressed concerns over their memory and mental health as Hunt did? Maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe they would. But commentators on the subject that broach that question are missing the point, aren’t they?
If you can file a lawsuit based on your opinion that the company you are an independent contractor for was negligent when it came to your health, can you really fault them for looking after your health now, even if it was in their own self-interest?
People should be applauding the UFC no matter their motives, pure or ulterior. But to even fathom taking the side of the coin that the UFC should be shown in a negative light is hidden somewhere between humorous and sad. No, a multi-billion dollar company should never allow themselves to to be put in a bad place because of this kind of liability, even if that is their only reasoning for making the move.
Because let’s face it, severe brain injury being “the price I’ve paid” for being a fighter just isn’t good PR for a company who promotes fighting.
The UFC may very well not care one iota about Mark Hunt. But this week, they had a part in helping salvage his career and perhaps, someday, his life.
So why isn’t that good enough?
For more on mixed martial arts, follow Dan Vance on Twitter at danvance