Michael Bisping, Vitor Belfort, Jose Aldo, Dominic Cruz, Antonio Nogueira and Brian Stann are just a few of the names of fighters who have recently had to pull out of fights due to injuries. It really has hit the UFC matchmakers Sean Selby and Joe Silva like a tidal wave and they have really worked for their money in the past few months. As a result of the injuries many of the cards have had to be switched and changed but they have managed to keep up with the tight scheduling and pull it off so far. The internet has been alight with suggestions as to how and why these fighters are getting injured and many seem to believe that the fighters insurance has played a part in certain fighters pulling out. So I decided that I would have a look into the recent trends and lay down my thoughts on the topic and hopefully leave you guys with an interesting read.
So let’s start with the issue of the fighters insurance. Historically Zuffa only covered its athletes for any injuries stemming from a fight. The new policy which kicked into place on 1st June 2011 meant that fighters would receive $50,000 cover per annum for any injuries that occur while under contract with Zuffa. This new policy covered expected injuries (Like training) as well as injuries bought about in everyday life, like car accidents and falls. Now the first thing that sticks out to me about this is that Zuffa are only insuring fighters up to $50k per annum. Just by running a bit of internet research and ploughing through health forums the cost for a doctor to just open you up in surgery is $9k and that is at a standard level carried out in a public hospital. Looking further into it ACL surgery again at a standard level in a public hospital averages $30k. Now these fighters life’s depend on their ability to compete at the highest level, so when it comes to treating an injury they are not going to do what the average Joe does and take some time off work to let it heal. They are going to be looking for the best of the best surgeons, advisors and rehabilitation programmes to ensure that the surgeries they commit to are going to give the desired results and that they can recover from them as soon as possible. So based on this the $50k that the UFC supply is not going to be anywhere near a full insurance cover for these procedures. I think that this pretty much eradicates the commonality between the new insurance being input and the increase in fighters withdrawing from fights due to injury.
Another comment I have seen branded around recently relating to the increase in injury is that too many of the fighters are training with guys who are on PED’s and thus being pushed to a rate which they can’t compete with. In some ways I can tend to lean towards agreeing with this although it’s a very hard issue to deal with given that we do not know how many (if any) fighters are using PED’s. In a sport in which the slightest of margins can make a huge difference these fighters are bound to be looking for anything which will give them the slightest advantage come fight night. Now I don’t want to get into the whole issue around PED’s but if; Fighter A (Not taking PED’s) is training with Fighter B (Who is taking PED’s) you would imagine it would be harder for the fighter A to keep up with the pace of fighter B. Now if fighter A is pushing himself to the same level as fighter B he is potentially increasing the risk of injury to himself. Now this is very basis overview but hopefully paints a picture of another issue which may have led to an increase in injuries.
Whilst writing this article I have really been racking my brains as to my thoughts behind the reason that these fighters are pulling out of fights with injuries and I can only really think that it boils down to them not wanting to compete at anything less than 100%. The sport of MMA is growing so quickly that these fighters have a very small window of opportunity to remain at the top of their divisions and for them to remain at the top they need to be 100% going into every fight. A champion is not going to defend his belt if he has a nagging injury which could be rectified by a small surgery. Yes it may mean him sitting on the sidelines for a few months not getting any money in, but in the long term it will benefit him as he will then be able to return to the octagon 100% next time round and be in a better position to win the fight. It is truly amazing how quickly a fighter can go from the top of the pile to near the bottom (Just ask Miguel Torres) so why risk it? The only answer to that is that the fighter may financially need to fight regardless of their condition. Some of the lower tier fighters are only making roughly $8k per fight and that’s before taking out management fees, gym fees and mortgages etc. But interestingly enough most of the fighters who have pulled out of fights recently seem to be the higher level fighters who would not appear to the naked eye to be in a position of financial difficulty. It is also crazy also how the fans can switch on fighters who find themselves on a loosing streak. Sponsorship is another pressure which they are faced with as the top sponsorship opportunities tend to fall with the guys performing the best. The pressure on these fighters is at an all time high and it is very important for them to keep as healthy as possible at all times.
I suppose this article could go on forever with varying arguments as to why we have seen so many fighters get injured and be forced to pull out of fights but I am going to leave it at that. I hope this has been an enjoyable read to you guys and has maybe helped you to look at these recent issues with a fresh perspective but again its all based on my thoughts and none of this is factual, just my opinions.
About the Author: TheCoach knows his stuff. Now you can either utilize the knowledge, or regret that you didn't.