These past few weeks have been ugly in the world of combat sports.
UFC president Dana White slapped his wife in the head. Twice. On video. His only explanation was extraordinary drunkenness.
The Ultimate Fighter 1 and UFC veteran Stephan Bonnar died of yet unconfirmed causes. He was only in his mid 40’s. With reports noting he had concerns of having the progressive brain disease CTE. Heart health has been mentioned with research shedding new light on the strong connection of heart health issues and past traumatic brain injury.
Boxer Gervonta Davis was arrested on domestic abuse charges.
And perhaps most horrific of all UFC veteran Phil Baroni has reportedly been arrested in Mexico on allegations he battered his partner to death.
Many fighters retire broke and broken. Financial exploitation is rampant. As is drug and alcohol abuse. As is brain trauma. Its like the perfect recipe for a ticking time bomb with the only remaining question whether it will explode or implode.
Its hard to find constructive things to say with serial headlines showing horrific realities in combat sports. But I will try.
Combat sports have a domestic violence problem. Combat sports have a CTE problem. And in a tragic circle domestic violence victims also have a CTE problem. A hidden epidemic of brain harm with researchers noting there are about “4,500 concussed women (from Domestic Violence) for every one concussed NHL player“.
What can be done? Here is a simple start.
If you train in combat sports or if you train others in combat sports please understand brain health. Understand concussion. Understand CTE. Respect brain health and find ways to minimize it.
If combat sports don’t find ways to fix themselves others will find ways to fix them for you. Do better. Stop harming each others brains without reason in training. You don’t ‘practice’ brain trauma.
Find ways to assist research. Scientists need athletes to participate in the professional athletes brain health study. Scientists need fighters to donate their brains. Researchers need domestic violence victims to add to voids in scientific data.
Hold those in your community accountable. Don’t excuse domestic violence. Don’t excuse criminal acts. Don’t look the other way because you are trying to protect the sport.
Find ways to care. Find ways to stomp out abuse. Find ways to make these sports better than where they are right now. There is a lot of room for improvement. But there are a lot of people who can help improve them. Pitch in. If you care for combat sports roll up your sleeves and do your part.