On Tuesday, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.) met with representatives from both boxing and mixed martial arts organizations to announce their support for future research on the effects of repeated blows to the head.
In an unprecedented move, rival companies UFC and Bellator MMA, along with boxing promotions Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank Boxing, put their differences aside and contributed $600,000 to the Cleveland Center for Brain Health.
“I appreciate the fact that top boxing and mixed martial arts organizations have joined together to directly support the Cleveland Clinic’s Professional Fighters Brain Health Study,” said McCain. “The willingness of these organizations to support research into the effects of contact sports on brain health indicates their willingness to take very seriously the welfare of their boxers and fighters and demonstrates that they recognize how crucial fighter-safety is to the long-term viability of their sports. I am hopeful that their funding for this study will advance our understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of brain trauma and support similar research efforts going well beyond the ring.”
Launched in 2011, the Cleveland Clinic study specializes in the effects of head trauma of athletes taking part in combat sports in order to detect early signs of brain injury. With these findings, they hope to identify which individuals will be most likely to develop chronic neurological disorders.
“These athletes are here in support of their fellow athletes because they’ve seen the results,” said McCain. ”If we don’t do this, I’m afraid that support for these incredible, entertaining sports will wane on the part of the American people.”
McCain, who once famously referred to the early days of the MMA as “human cockfighting,” boxed during his time in the U.S. Naval academy, while Sen. Reid was an amateur boxer in his youth.
“As a former boxer, I know first-hand the toll that a fighter’s body takes when he or she is in the ring,” said Reid. “I want to thank Cleveland Clinic and the leaders of the four fighting organizations for bringing awareness to this important issue facing professional sports today.”
Among those in attendance was current UFC Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones and number one contender Glover Teixeira, along with UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta and boxing legend Bernard Hopkins.