(Photo via UFC.com)
For a number of reasons having to do with the sport’s culture, rule set and diversity of techniques, MMA simply is not as dangerous a sport as, say, boxing or American football in terms of brain trauma. That said, it is still quite dangeous and fighteres face a myriad of potential dangers in training and in competition.
Featherweight Eddie Yagin was just ordered to take six months off from MMA to let his brain heal. Many other active fighters conceal or ignore brain trauma and don’t retire or take the rest they need in order to hopefully have some quality of life as they age.
So when UFC bantamweight Nick Denis announced on his tumblr blog this week that he had decided to retire from MMA, it was bittersweet. Bitter because the international community had only begun to see how skilled and talented the twenty nine year-old was after two fights in the globe’s top organization. Sweet because, as he detailed on his blog, he made a thoughtful and proactive decision to protect what is left of his health.
One of hardest things for athletes to do is walk away, no matter their physical condition or age, because it means a forced change of identities. They have to find a new way to define themselves, a new set of activitites to spend their lives doing.
Denis seems at peace with his decision and confident that he will find new things to “obsess” over. We are glad and we hope so.
His written statement announcing his retirement is insightful, moving and inspirational. Read it and then go out and get started pursuing dreams and accomplishments that will make you worthy of a nickname as awesome as the one Nick “The Ninja of Love” Denis has.
“I would like to think that I don’t have an ego. Sometimes though, I think it might just be so big that it can’t be hurt.
I really believe in living life. I always tell people, quite casually, ‘follow your heart.’ I don’t just say it for the sake of having words come out of my mouth, it is something that I truly believe in and do. I couldn’t imagine living my life and ignoring my true feelings and desires, just for the sake of living a ‘rational’ and safe lifestyle. That is why I quit my Ph.D. in biochemistry to move to Montreal, train full-time and make my way to the UFC.
To me, it was the only available option. What other choice did I have?