Update October 10, 2017 – Today it was announced that the UFC pulled Mark Hunt from his next scheduled bout due to the below referenced health complaints.
This week the oldest fighter on the UFC’s roster made some candid yet troubling admissions.
In an article published at the Players Voice, Hunt reveals that he is struggling with cognitive impairment with the heavyweight noting
“Sometimes I don’t sleep well. You can hear me starting to stutter and slur my words. My memory is not that good anymore. I’ll forget something I did yesterday but I can remember the shit I did years and years ago. That’s just the price I’ve paid – the price of being a fighter”
Slurred words, stuttered speech and memory problems are associated with being ‘punch drunk’ or more precisely CTE. I am not diagnosing Hunt with this disorder but any doctor being asked to sign off on Hunt’s medicals would be negligent not exploring the subject.
MMA is, by and large, a regulated sport. Regulators exist first and foremost for fighter safety. Medical requirements are not, or should not be, a rubber stamp process.
Hunt’s next bout is in Sydney. It will be regulated by the New South Wales Combat Sports Authority. This legal body exists “to promote the health and safety of combat sport contestants“.
The Authority warns physicians who sign off on a fighter’s medical certificate that
“The purpose of the examination is to detect those persons who are particularly at risk due to pre-existing disease or anatomical abnormalities.
The medical practitioner should undertake any medical examinations and tests they believe are necessary to give them confidence to issue the Certificate of Fitness.”
When examining a fighter doctors are specifically directed to conduct an examination exploring
“Transient/prolonged neurological system/signs, including headache.
Previous injury with incomplete recovery of function or complicating sequelae.”
Hunt’s admissions seem to fall squarely into these categories.
There are cases in boxing, a sport with a longer regulatory history than MMA, of fighters being effectively retired by commissions refusing to grant a licence due to accumulated cognitive impairment.
I cannot recall of MMA authorities ever ‘retiring’ a fighter. Eventually this will happen.
There is little doubt Hunt can still effectively compete. He remains one of the world’s elite heavyweight mixed martial artists. Whether he should continue to be licenced with admitted cognitive impairment is a question every regulator asked to licence him will have to struggle with.