UFC president Dana White had some interesting comments regarding brain trauma in a new interview with AP sports writer Dan Gelston on abcnews.go.com. White was an amateur boxer back in the day, but according to the article, seeing the long-term effects the brutal sport had upon some individuals made him rethink what he was doing.
White’s taste for the squared circle dried up the day he saw a punchy pugilist stumble around a heavy bag.
“I remember looking at him thinking … what if it happens to me?” White said. “The minute you think that to yourself, you’re not a real fighter.”
The Mike Tyson junkie never laced up as a professional. He quit on his own and thinks retired athletes should take personal responsibility for their health in the same way, knowing that fighting careers can be punishing.
“I was just telling these guys the other day, I got a CT scan on my head. It looks like a … Dalmatian,” he said. “I’ve got spots all over my brain. I wouldn’t take back one punch.”
UFC has yet to become seriously slogged down in lawsuits the way the NFL and NHL have over the thorny issues of concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
“Nobody forced you to play in the … NFL. It’s what you wanted to do,” White said. “At that time of your life, that’s the deal you signed and that’s what you did. Just like me. I’ve got spots all over my head. Who the … am I going to blame? Me, that’s who I’m going to blame. I did it because I wanted to do it.”
I’m not so sure one can say you’re not a “real fighter” just because you consider the long-term effects an activity like mixed martial arts or boxing can have on your brain and health. How can one not think about that when there is so much evidence suggesting repeated concussions can have devastating long-term effects upon a person?
Theoretically it could make one a much better defensive fighter, like a Floyd Mayweather. Why do you think he has the style he has? It’s because he doesn’t want to get hit, and it’s also the reason he’s been able to fight for so long and make so much money. He understood the more you get hit the shorter career span you will have.
When White was boxing, there was not as much public data about concussions. The NFL lawsuits hadn’t happened yet either. And let’s not forget:
“The player lawsuits accused the NFL of hiding what it knew about the link between concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease found in dozens of former players after their deaths. The deal avoids the need for a trial and means the NFL may never have to disclose what it knew and when about the risks and treatment of repeated concussions.”
We can only make the best decisions based upon the current information we have. Like the older generation of football players, the older generation of fighters for the most part did not have a good knowledge about concussions and CTE. The personal responsibility of a fighter or someone thinking about becoming a fighter (or playing football, etc.) now is to analyze the risk based on the data available so as to make an informed decision about your future and if it is worth the reward.
One thing is certain, repeated blows to your head is not a good thing and could cause serious long-term health complications including but not limited to emotional and mental problems. My wish is that Dana White nor any fighter would ever have to go through what guys like Gary Goodridge is going through right now. But as long as there are consenting adults who wish to fight each other for money, unfortunately it seems brain trauma is going to be part of the game.