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Mixed Martial Arts: A Massive Lawsuit Waiting to Happen?

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Earlier this year the NFL agreed to pay $765 million to settle a lawsuit brought by more than 4,500 players and their families to compensate for chronic illnesses including degenerative brain diseases, due to concussions from play. On Monday 10 former National Hockey League players filed suit in Washington seeking damages caused by concussions suffered during their careers. Will Mixed Martial Arts the next sport to pay?

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is among the fastest growing spectator sports in the country. Though less known than boxing or wrestling, MMA combines aspects of both as well techniques from kickboxing, judo, and karate. Fighters compete in an octagon, rather than a ring, and punch and kick and tackle with gloves much smaller than the bulky mitts in boxing and often without shoes.

It looks brutal, but according to Lorenzo Fertitta, the CEO and Chairman of UFC (or Ultimate Fighting Championship), the primary company promoting these fights, MMA is relatively safe.

“Johns Hopkins University came in and did a study for a number of years and … came to the conclusion that our sport is unequivocally safer than boxing, safer than most other combat sports and…even had a lower injury rate than cheerleading,” Fertitta tells The Daily Ticker.

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He explains in the video above that the UFC uses a “preventative process” doing baseline MRIs and CAT scans that they can refer to when athletes are injured, helping them to "immediately respond" when necessary.

In addition, says Fertitta, "Our athletes don’t have to perform on any given time frame so if someone gets a concussion or they’re hurt, they’re automatically suspended for 90 days until a doctor releases them to go back into training.”

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But others aren't as confident as Fertitta about the safety of the sport.

An investigative special report in The Ledger newspaper, which included interviews with current and former fighters and medical researchers found that mixed martial arts is a violent, dangerous sport. Charles Bernick, associate medical director of the Cleveland Clinic who studied the brains of boxers and MMA fighters told reporters, "No matter how you're getting hit, you're going to have damage."

So is the MMA concerned that it could end up like the NFL, culpable for the injuries of its athletes?

“You don’t know what is going to happen in the future," says Fertitta. " All you can do is take the precautions that are reasonable and we are doing that right now to make sure our athletes are safe.”

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