“I think part of the difference here is that in the UFC there is no urgency to play. If you happen to fight and compete and let’s say the doctor says, ‘Okay, you have a concussion,’ you are automatically suspended for 90 days. No contact in the gym. Obviously you can’t compete, you can’t fight,” Fertitta said, adding that the enforced three month vacation gives UFC fighters “enough time to heal the right way.”
The same is not true for the NFL, Fertitta says, because football is a team sport and the team sometimes takes precedence over a single individual.
“Unfortunately sometimes in competitive team sports, whatever it might be — could be basketball or NFL or whatever — there is always that competitive push and desire to say, ‘Hey, we need this person to play this Sunday; we need this person to play this weekend because we want to win,’ ” Fertitta said. “I think that’s where the difference lies. [UFC] is a singular sport; it’s not a team sport. You’re not relying on one person for the rest of your team. It’s just a different animal that we deal with.”
This is not the first time a UFC officials has claimed UFC is safer than the NFL in terms of its concussion protocol. Speaking in 2013, UFC President Dana White echoed Fertitta’s remarks, using New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as an example.
“In the NFL, you’re not going to lose Tom Brady for three months, man. You lose Tom Brady for three months and your whole season is wiped out,” White said (via MMAmania.com).
Fertitta also claimed MMA fighting was safer than boxing because it makes sure the two fighters who enter the Octagon are evenly match.
“I think a lot of things what you see in, for instance, boxing, is that you have to build your record up to 30-0 to get a title shot. Well, along that line of 30-0, you probably knocked out guys that weren’t in your league and shouldn’t have been in there with you,” Fertitta said.
While there have been no published studies comparing concussions in the UFC to the NFL, there has been at least one to compare the UFC to boxing. The University of Toronto concluded last year that MMA fighters are more at risk than boxers of sustaining brain trauma during a bout. Researches based their findings on records and videos from 844 UFC fights that took place from 2006 to 2012. They then broke down the numbers: 108 matches (almost 13 percent) concluded in knockouts, plus another 179 matches (21 percent) finished in technical knockouts, which often ended with the winning fighter striking his opponent in the head up to 10 times in the final 10 seconds of the match, equals 32 percent of bouts involving a concussion or concussion-like injury.
UFC officials replied to the findings, calling them “somewhat flawed,” the Associated Press reported in March, shortly after the study came out.
The UFC is actually funding its own study in conjunction with the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. The promotion is funding the research, which involves measuring UFC fighters’s brain health over time to see how the sport affects the athletes’ cognition and other mental abilities. Both White in the past and Fertitta in his interview with Bensinger talked about these efforts as a means to ensure the promotion doesn’t follow in the footsteps of the NFL, which owes billion of dollars to former players and their families over the long-term effects of concussions thanks to a class-action lawsuit.
“We’re not running away from [the problem]; we’re not hiding it,” Fertitta said. “(We’re) being completely transparent with our athletes and trying to make them understand that, yes, there certainly are risks going into this thing, but when you do fight for us, we’re going to make sure that you have the best medical testing to make sure you go into the Octagon safely, and you’re going to have the best medical staff there on site.”