There aren’t many topics that Bellator and the UFC see eye-to-eye on. The same could be said about the sport of boxing, when it comes to Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions. And Viacom, who not only owns Bellator but GLORY kickboxing as well, is fighting the UFC tooth and nail to one day overtake the MMA giant in terms of sales, viewership and product recognition. So when you see members of these companies come together for a singular cause, you know that it’s something critically important for the combat sports world.
All sides were on hand at a press conference in Washington, DC this past Tuesday, in order to announce their joint support of the Cleveland Clinic Professional Fighters Brain Health Study (FBHS).
Representatives in attendance:
•Dr. Charles Bernick, principal investigator
•Todd duBoef, President of Top Rank
•Michael Chandler, Bellator MMA contender
•Lorenzo Fertitta, Chairman and CEO of ZUFFA
•Bernard Hopkins, American boxer
•Jon Jones, UFC light heavyweight champion
•Kevin Kay, President of Spike TV
•John McCain, US Senator
•Harry Reid, US Senator
•Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions
•Glover Teixeira, UFC contender
•Representatives in charge of the study from the Cleveland Clinic
This research could not be more important, when it comes to the health and safety of the fighters we all love to watch. And while head trauma in contact sports has been a hot topic as of late, we’re still unsure as to what types of blows have a fast track to brain trauma, compared to others.
Is being on the receiving end of two violent KO’s worse, in the long run, than absorbing hundreds of lesser blows? Is a strike to the temple more damaging than a strike to the front of the skull? At the moment, we have no answers for these questions. But the FBHS, conducted by the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, is looking to change that.
Costs for these studies have been placed at $2,000,000, which includes grants from both the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense. On top of those grants, the group of representatives mentioned above will also be jointly committing $600,000 to the study.
“It was a very easy decision to say that we were all in, in respect to our athletes participating in the studies, as well as monetary funding they would need to be able to carry out these studies,” said ZUFFA Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta as transcribed by Bleacher Report.
Sen. John McCain was, at one time, one of the biggest opponents of the sport of mixed martial arts, famously calling the sport “human cockfighting”. Now the senator stands united with the other members of this coalition.
“We all know that it is a problem, and we all know this study…is much needed,” said the Senator. “Because if we don’t do this, I’m afraid that support for these incredible, entertaining sports will wane on the part of the American people.”
The FBHS has been tracking brain health and deterioration since 2011, using active and retired fighters from the boxing and MMA world. And while it might take years before critical information is gleaned from this research, the information gathered today will no doubt help to keep the fighters of the future healthier and safer.
“There’s nothing out there now that’s ready for prime time,” said Dr. Bernick. “But as we see more fighters, maybe there could be a tool for recognizing [significant head trauma] more quickly.”
“Most head injury does not produce brain injury,” said Dr. Cummings. “But some head injuries produce a brain injury that starts a process that ends up in something that looks like Alzheimer’s Disease. We do not understand which head injuries lead to which brain injuries and result in this chronic and disabling process.”
Speaking as a fan, I’m proud to see these men come together for such an important cause. We’ve all seen the effects of a hard-fought career on some of our favorite combat sports fighters, and it’s an upsetting thing to witness. If this research helps even a single fighter to avoid a permanent traumatic brain injury, it will be well worth the effort.
The video of the conference can be found below.