The UFC Champion Injury BugAuthor : Joshua Taylor
Sunday, 15 May 2011 21:06
When was the last time we didn’t have a UFC champion in need of surgery or time off to recover from some injury? The fight game is extremely taxing on the human body and unfortunately injuries are a part of the training and the fights themselves. It is rare that we see a card take place with absolutely no changes due to injury. Does it not seem that injuries are even more common with champions though?
Dominick Cruz has been on the shelf for six months rehabbing a hand injury. Jose Aldo had to pull out of his first ever scheduled defense of the UFC FW Title at UFC 125 due to compacted vertebrae. Frankie Edgar has had to withdraw from his rematch with Gray Maynard due to bulging discs. Jon Jones opted to withdraw from his first title defense in order to rehab a hand injury. Cain Velasquez opted for surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff after winning the HW Title from Brock Lesnar.
Interestingly there are only two champions who have not recently had to pull out of fights due to injury and they are the two currently longest reigning UFC champions. Is that a coincidence? I don’t believe so. There are so many variables that go into the scheduling of title defenses that when you get a chance to fight for a title, you take it. Too many times we have seen fighters on the cusp of a title shot but due to injury, timing, selling power, etc they missed their opportunity and in some cases never got it back again.
The UFC title seems to serve as a bit of a “safe spot”. Once a fighter obtains the title, there is no need to take the risk of fighting with an injury. As the champion they will continue to get sponsorships and income even if they have to sit on the shelf. It’s a luxury that is usually reserved only for champions. In the case of Cruz and Jones, the injuries that forced them onto the shelf are injuries that they had fought through in previous fights, but once they obtained their UFC titles they decided it was time to take time off and rehab.
Is this wrong? Should these champions be judged cowards for not fighting through these injuries? Absolutely not. Most fighters only enjoy a short reign as champion with so many talented fighters in each weight class. You can’t blame a guy for wanting to get healthy after working so hard, and in many cases fighting through injuries, to win the title.
The problem the UFC will face is that I see this only becoming more common. With the UFC putting on so many events, I think more champions are willing to put themselves on the shelf for a few months to recover from injuries. The UFC cant, and wouldn’t want to, force champions to fight through injuries, so the only thing they can do is hope fighters can stay healthy and motivated to get into the cage and defend their titles.