(…and if you include non-Zuffa fighters who shattered their penises last year, that number jumps up to 2,057.)
Yes, one hundred and four. Triple digits, baby. That startling figure comes to us via MMAFighting.com researcher Steve Borchardt, who tallied up all the injury pullouts by UFC and Strikeforce fighters in 2012, and fed them all into this chronological spreadsheet. (Color key: Injuries to champions are in yellow, all other main event fighters are in red, and co-mainers are in teal. Also, “KO’d by sauna floor when cutting weight” really deserves its own color. An ugly brownish-orange, perhaps.)
We’re all reasonable men and women, right? We know that this explosion in high-profile injury withdrawals can’t really be explained by a “curse,” or bad luck, or terrible coincidence. Grueling training conditions — in which MMA fighters work all year round, scrapping against elite-level teammates rather than paid sparring dummies, executing body-motions that are specifically designed to blow out your knees — has to account for most of it.
But are there other explanations? When you look at all the injuries listed as “Undisclosed” on the chart, you can’t help but speculate…
Remember how Nate Marquardt was blocked from competing at UFC on Versus 4 in June 2011 (and subsequently fired) because he couldn’t quite get a handle on his testosterone levels after going on TRT? The controversial rise of hormone replacement therapy could create more cases like that — with fighters bowing out of a scheduled match rather than risk the consequences for a potential blown drug test.
Alternately, UFC fighters may have become more cautious about competing when their health is less than 100%. As lucrative opportunities outside of the UFC continue to shrink, it has become even more important for athletes to have a good showing every time they enter the Octagon. So perhaps a fighter who would have gritted his teeth in the past and fought through a minor injury would now decide to sit out until he recovers. It’s a business, after all.
Can the UFC brass can do anything to alleviate this problem in 2013? It’s hard to say. But considering that the loss of marquee fights can hurt their bottom line more than any other factor, you can bet that they’re racking their brains trying to figure it out.