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 411mania » MMA » Columns

The 2014 UFC Injury Bug: The Worst One Ever?
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 08.14.2014

Greetings, 411 MMA readers. This is your friendly neighborhood 411 Jack of all Trades, Jeffrey Harris. For this week's column, I wanted to examine one of the most frustrating, and in my opinion, most pressing issues that the UFC and MMA industry is facing as a whole this year: the injury bug. If you thought the injuries that hit the UFC in 2012 were bad, then in 2014 it has gotten even worse.

The recurring theme of the 2014 injury bug in MMA is becoming like a bad running joke, and it keeps getting worse like the attempts at comedy in a Michael Bay movie. Case in point UFC 178. Last week it was set to feature one of the most talked about match-ups all time in Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones. Now? The fight has been postponed due to injuries. The irony is that this fight was an injury replacement already. The fight was supposed to be Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson, a rematch from their incredible bout at UFC 165. Gustafsson injured his knee during training, so the fight with Cormier was made for UFC 178 as a result. Now Jones injured his leg, and he's out of the fight now. So the fight has been postponed to the January 3 PPV. It sounds good, but that is several months away. Can fans really be confident one of the fighters won't drop out again?

The PED issue is one that I think is never really going to go away. I believe fighters and athletes will always try and find a way to get a competitive edge over the competition and cheat the system. Also if over half the industry is on some type of gear, and we believe that, that means a good amount of fighters we like or say they are clean are actually dirty.

2014 is without a doubt the worst injury year for the UFC and the sport as a whole. At UFC 169 we lost a big fight in Rashad Evans vs. Daniel Cormier. At UFC 168, we lost Dominick Cruz vs. Renan Barao. Being in Los Angeles, it was especially disappointing to completely lose the entire UFC 176 all because Jose Aldo got injured. This was the first UFC card in Los Angeles in two years, so now we will have to wait even longer to get another one.

I think one major issue that UFC has to face is to just cut about two or three PPVs next year. Since injuries like this are inevitable and alarmingly commonplace, cutting some PPVs off the schedule means they are not scrambling to move around fights and match-ups from other cards as much. If the point is to get a title fight to headline a PPV, then there simply needs to be less PPVs to accommodate the champions who are becoming less active due to injuries.

The other major issue is that fighters are not taking care of themselves during training and not staying healthy. As a fan, it is becoming increasingly frustrating that you cannot get excited about a fight or match-up anymore without having to pray it does not fall apart due to injuries. UFC could announce a hot card that is a few fights deep, but then we will helplessly watch as several fights fall apart due to injuries. Some of these injuries are apparently happening day out.

In the past, UFC President Dana White has talked about fighters getting training camps that are focused and built around them. Well, then the UFC should do something about that. How about the UFC makes some sort of deal to help a fighter in the main event or co-main event for major events set up this type of camp? Is this cost prohibitive? I have no idea. Only the UFC brass can answer that. However, the UFC already had to cancel one PPV this year. UFC 178 is not cancelled yet, but the UFC is issuing refunds for fans who have bought tickets in order to see Jones vs. Cormier. So they are losing money on these injuries destroying fight cards. It looks like investing in curbing injuries is a good way of avoiding losing more money later on fight cards being cancelled.

I think the other major problem is that gyms are overcrowded and fighters are overtraining or making bad decisions. In 2012, Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar got postponed that year because Aldo was driving a motorcycle around Brazil during training camp, which he should not have been doing. Alexander Gustafsson had to cancel his fight with Gegard Mousasi in Stockholm, Sweden because he cut his face on the fence during training and he was not wearing head gear. The solution? Now he will always wear the head gear, per Gustafsson. If the UFC has a code of conduct policy for fighters to follow, including prohibiting fighters from partaking in dangerous activities during training camp, then it is time to regulate training camps further. If fighters need to be forced to take more precautions during training to further curb and prevent injuries, so be it.

And to be fair, I am not fighter. I am not a trainer. I am not a coach. I am a just a reporter, sounding off in a column. That being said, if fighters are unable to stay healthy and they are not making it to the cage, then they are in my humble opinion, not doing their job as a fighter. Injuries will happen and are sometimes unavoidable. However, based on many interviews I have read and constantly hearing fighters say, "I'm listening to my body now," I think the overtraining argument is valid. Dominick Cruz's injury sounded like it happened because of an overcrowded gym. A similar instance happened with Rashad Evans' in 2011 that took him out of his fight with Mauricio Rua that allowed Jon Jones to step in and start his title reign. Johnny Hendricks said he always wears headgear during training and does not take headshots. I think he has the right idea. As a fighter, your chin will not last forever. So if the UFC needs to create a pay arrangement with fighters to let them have a less crowded camp, then is not something like that worth the money to avoid the embarrassment or frustration of cancelling a card? If fighters are hurt by wearing too much protective gear or not training hard enough, then tough luck. Fighters are not getting paid for the training. They get trained for getting into the cage. If they are training so much they are getting injured and cannot make it to the cage, then how do they get paid?

Maybe these ideas or suggestions for dealing with injuries in the industry are not rational. However, as a fan, this in my mind is becoming the most pressing issue because it is destroying events and PPVs. If we are going to regulate PEDs, something should also be done to regulate training camps to curb injuries.


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