The UFC 155 bout between Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller made me think of a quote from John Green’s book “The Fault in Our Stars”.
“The marks humans leave are too often scars.”, John Green, The Fault in Our Stars.
Nothing could be more true about MMA fighters. MMA is a rough and bloody sport… elbows to the head in particular often cut right through the skin resulting in significant bleeding, leaving a serious mark and making for a rather gruesome bout.
While we had been pondering this subject for some time at SciFighting the time never seemed more appropriate to illuminate the detriment vs benefit of the current format of MMA fights. MMA Junkie reported this Sunday on the current status of Joe Lauzon’s injuries from his award winning fight against Jim Miller at UFC 155. Although the bout ended in a win by decision for Miller, Lauzon won his fifth “Fight of the Night” award for the action packed, crowd rousing performance he put on.
There’s no question fans want to see these kinds of fights, but the question remains, is it the action or the gore that really rouses the crowd? Looking at photos during the fight it’s pretty easy to see that to some, even veterans of the sport, this amount gore may be just a bit too much.
Now before anyone get’s too anxious about what we are suggesting, remember that UFC is trying to win the hearts and minds of the mainstream public and as such there must be some consideration for what the average individual can visually tolerate. While statistics for Hematophobia (fear of blood) have been challenging to find, a similar and related condition Trypanophobia (fear of needles) is estimated to affect at least 10% of American adults. The actual number of affected individuals is suspected to be higher as many who suffer from this condition often avoid medical treatment all together. Given these phobias can result in panic attacks, fainting spells and unsafe rises in blood pressure it is quite reasonable to consider the effect that excessive amounts of blood during a bout may have on a significant portion of the population.
Social concerns aside, let’s think about the fighters for a moment. Due to the injuries suffered during the UFC 155 bout, Joe Lauzon has had to delay his return to the octagon till at least this summer. We all love a good fight, but what’s it worth if our favorite fighters are so seriously injured after giving it their all that they can’t return to fight again?
After 40 stitches and significant scarring, Lauzon has had to take it slow as he’s returned to the mat. During all of this he has also had to undergo some intense and rather painful therapy: The Graston Technique. Basically, John Pallof, a physical therapist at Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning in Massachusetts has been working with Lauzon on this. The nature of the therapy involves taking a metal tool and digging at the scar tissue to break it up. Over repeated (and extremely painful) treatments the scar tissue begins to subside. This is essential as scar tissue is very susceptible to tearing open with relatively less intense impacts than would be required for unscarred tissue. This creates a safety and performance hazard for fighters (like Lauzon) returning to the ring.
Well it’s likely many of you are wondering… “so, what can we do about this?”. Well there are a number of things that can be considered. Let’s get the least desirable option out of the way:
- Banning elbows from MMA fights? This clearly won’t fly with most fans. We certainly wouldn’t want to see that either.
- Protective head gear? This again wouldn’t look very impressive. It would appear much too much like an amateur sparring match.
- Padding the elbows? Now this one seems a bit more feasible, if done correctly. There are a number of manufacturers who already make products that could be adapted for use in the octagon.
Now we know no one is ever that excited about changing things they love, especially when we have become accustom to it. However, we all adapted to the inclusion of padding on the fist with the use of MMA gloves in professional bouts. We think this might be a good evolution for the sport to ensure fighters can last a bit longer in the ring and recover from a bout likely a good deal quicker when an elbow would have caused some serious superficial tissue damage.
At the end of the day, this is all for entertainment. Sure a real street fight would be gruesome and unpredictable, but when we go to see a sporting event, we like there to be some rules and guidelines… things to ensure there isn’t absolute chaos or anarchy during a competition. Now, we don’t know if this will ever fly or if it’s being considered at a high level in any of the fight promotions companies, but we suspect it will only take a few onscreen primetime bouts that end tragically for one or another fighter for more protection to be mandated by the athletic commissions. So rather than letting the legislature decide for us, why not have the masters of the art chose what they feel is best for protection.
What do you think? Should there be elbow padding to reduce cuts during a bout?