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Why is Everyone Getting Injured in MMA?

by on July 21, 2011

by Daniel Galvan

It’s almost become a running joke that it wouldn’t be a normal day without a UFC fighter pulling out of fight due to an injury, suspension, or another reason. As an MMA fan that joke really isn’t that funny, I mean it’s astonishing how many magnificent fights have been put on hold or scrapped in the past ten UFC events. Here is a list of the majority of the fights that have been canceled in the last ten UFC events.

            BJ Penn vs Jon Fitch, Evan Dunham vs George Sotiropoulos, Cub Swanson vs Eric Koch, Matthew Riddle vs TJ Grant, Charlie Brenneman vs TJ Grant, Anthony Johnson vs Nate Marquardt, Rick Story vs Nate Marquardt, Martin Kampmann vs John Howard, Junior Dos Santos vs Brock Lesnar, Court McGee vs Jesse Bongfeldt, Rani Yahya vs Dustin Poirier, Anthony Perosh vs Krzysztof Socynzki, Krzysztof Socynzki vs Igor Pokrajac, Mac Danzing vs Donald Cerrone, Dave Herman vs Rob Broughton, Jonathan Brookins vs Jeremy Stephens, Frankie Edgar vs Gray Maynard, Quinton Jackson vs Thiago Silva, Brad Pickett vs Miguel Torres, Kid Yamamoto vs Chris Cariaso, Cody McKenzie vs Bart Palaszewski, Bart Palaszewki vs Gleison Tibau, Rory MacDonald vs James Wilks, Brian Foster vs Sean Pierson, Tito Ortiz vs Lil’ Noguiera, Duane Ludwig vs Amir Sadollah, Amir Sadollah vs James Wilks, Dennis Hallman vs TJ Waldburger, Nick Pace vs Michael McDonald, Nam Phan vs Leonard Garcia, Yoshihiro Akiyama vs Nate Marquardt, Mauricio Rua vs Rashad Evans, Karlos Vemola vs Luiz Cane, Manny Gamburyan vs Raphael Assuncao, Matt Brown vs Mark Scanlon, Maiquel Falcao vs Alessio Sakara, Rafael Natal vs Alessio Sakara, Rousimar Palhares vs Alexandre Ferreira, Paulo Thiago vs Johny Hendricks, Takeya Mizugaki vs Francisco Rivera,  and Carlos Condit vs Chris Lytle.
            Disappointment is the word to describe that. It is insane the amount fights that have been canceled due to various reasons.  Over the past ten events, there have been approximately forty-one blows to UFC fight cards. That’s an average of 4.1 fights being altered per UFC event, which is basically a third of the fights scheduled for each show.  There could have been four UFC super-shows made out of all of those fights. It seems as though there is no correlation or pattern between the pull-outs as main event and under-card fights have taken about the same amount of a hit. It’s hard to estimate, but I wouldn’t be surprised if about 500,000 PPV buy-rates were lost due to those fights being canceled over the last ten UFC shows, six of them being a pay-per-view show.

            This issue has also not just been a UFC problem. Just this week Alistair Overeem pulled out of the Strikeforce Grand Prix which basically ruined the entire tournament as the three most important fighters in that tournament are no longer in the Grand Prix. Even a fight featuring two high-level heavyweight prospects between Shane Del Rosario and Daniel Cormier was scrapped at the Overeem/Werdum show. The most well-known women’s MMA fighter Gina Carano also pulled out of the same show for reasons that are still unknown.  At Dream 17 two of the main fights were canceled aswell as Todd Duffee pulled out of the Nick Gaston fight via injury and Hayato Sakurai pulled out of his championship fight with Marius Zamroskis due to an unspecified leg injury. Even Bellator is not immune to this problem as Patiricio Freire had to pull out of his featherweight championship fight against Joe Warren which is a severe disappointment as that was the marquee fight of the Summer Series. It also throws a wrench into the plans for the fifth season as Warren is scheduled to compete in the Bantamweight tournament.
            The question that is on every MMA fan’s mind is why are all of these fights being canceled? It seems as though that the majority of the pull-outs are due to injuries, so the answer is a rise in injuries. The question to that answer is then why have we seen a rise of injuries in the sport. If we go back to 2007 during a ten fight stretch, the amount of fighters pulling out fights due to injury is minimal compared to what the injury rate is now. It’s not like the rules of the sport have changed, so why now in 2011 have so many of these injuries taken place. I believe that there are three reasons for the sudden rise of UFC injuries.
            How fighters train in 2011 is the first reason as to why there are numerous injuries.  In my opinion that is the biggest reason for the massive amount of injuries to MMA fighters. The majority of the injuries have occurred during a training camp leading to a fight.  A problem that occurs in a variety of sports is overtraining. Overtraining is hard to identify in a sport like MMA because a fighter will tend to think that he is bettering himself when he is really doing damage to his body. Instead of focusing on the form or correctness of the work-out, the fighters are trying to do as many as their body will allow them. It’s similar to how an average Joe would work out. It’s more important to have correct form and do ten push-ups, then have incorrect form and do 40 push-ups. The idea of an exercise is to take your muscle through a full range of motion, and if you limit that range of motion because you would like to do a massive amount of the exercise then you will limit your result and possibly injure yourself. Prior to his UFC 132 upset victory over Ryan Bader, Tito Ortiz talked about how he took some tips from UFC legend Randy Couture about “quality over quantity”, and not pushing your body to the point where you are actually injuring yourself rather than improving your physical attributes.
            Overtraining is a hard problem to fix as you can tell a fighter all day that he(she) can’t over-train, but they will still push their bodies as it is in their mind-set that pushing themselves to their limit will lead to them reaping beneficial effects for their up-coming fights. While maybe the more youthful fighters will not experience injuries due to over-training at the early point in their career, but it is important for veteran fighters to know their body and its limits. It may take fighters who understand the negative repercussions such as Randy Couture to explain that to current MMA fighters.
            Sparring also seems to be a leading factor as to why so many fighters are injured during training. A lot of fighters are side-lined due to injuries due to a sparring session. While some injuries are freak accidents such as a broken leg from a checked kick or a separated shoulder due to receiving a take-down, a majority can be prevented as fighters seem to be sparring too hard. I have seen sparring sessions that if you remove the head gear and shin guards, it is basically an MMA fight. While sparring is meant to be a simulation of what is to come for the fighter when he competes, it shouldn’t be an exact replica of the fight as there is a reason almost every fighter receives a medical suspension after a fight. A fight takes a toll on the body, and if a fighter spars in such a way that damage is done to themselves then they are doing something wrong. As fighters become more talented, sparring sessions become more dangerous and that is why fighters should try and prevent themselves from going full force. MMA camps should take note of how during NFL practices, the defensive line-man don’t go all out on the offensive line-man, or the defensive ends don’t sack their own quarterback. It defeats the purpose of training if you injure your team-mate previous to a fight or a game. I understand fighters want to prepare themselves the best that they can to claim victory in an MMA bout, but they can’t win in a fight if they injure themselves in training camp leading up to it.
            The second reason is pertains to just the UFC as the new insurance policy will now influence fighters to pull out of fights as they won’t have to worry about paying for a surgery or losing money. This isn’t a huge reason because the rise of injuries occurred previous to UFC’s announcement of insurance for all of their contracted fighters, but it is something that could come back to haunt the UFCs as fighters now have a safety blanket to pull out of fights.  It is a positive for the fighters because they can feel comfortable pulling out of fights that they wouldn’t have had their not been an insurance. There is also the possibility of a fighter abusing the insurance, but that problem hasn’t surfaced as of this point.
            The third and final reason is just simply a run of bad luck. The sheer amount of injuries that have occurred during this year is just remarkable. It seemed as though last year the injury toll was minimal compared to what has become an everyday occurrence of fighter’s pulling out. I can only hope that next year will be a bounce back year and it only seems fitting after the amount of fights that have been canceled in 2011.

By Daniel Galvan
Follow me on Twitter @DanielGal
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