At this point, 2014 is fast approaching 2012 levels in terms of the number of devastating major injuries in MMA. The promotion hit the hardest by the epidemic of injuries is the UFC. Many enticing fights have fallen apart this year due to injuries. Another injury announced this week, that of UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, effectively kills the UFC 176 headliner against Chad Mendes in August. For Aldo, this has become a recurring pattern in the UFC. He has had several UFC title fights fall apart in the last several years due to injury. Much like the recent code of conduct policy put into effect by the UFC, another policy must be instituted regarding reigning champions who are put out for extended periods of time due to injuries.
Aldo’s string of injuries is starting to become a broken record in his UFC run. His UFC 125 fight with Josh Grispi fell apart. An injury also crushed the chances of Erik Koch fighting for a UFC title against Aldo. He suffered a foot injury because he was recklessly riding a motorcycle in Brazil traffic while training for his scheduled UFC 153 fight against Frankie Edgar. And now, Aldo suffered injuries in training that have indefinitely suspended his scheduled rematch with No. 1-ranked UFC featherweight contender Mendes.
A little over a year ago, the UFC instituted its own code of conduct policy. Now it is high time for the UFC to prepare an injury policy for injured champions. Unfortunately, major injuries are fast becoming one of the most destructive issues the sport is facing. Dominick Cruz was on the shelf for over two years and endured a multitude of injuries before the UFC stripped him of the title in January 2014. Georges St-Pierre had over 18 months between fights when he was out with a torn ACL injury.
Of course, I am not a UFC policy maker, but it does not make sense to have a champion who has not defended his belt in over a year and a half. In that short amount of time, rankings could radically change. So a championship injury policy would automatically strip the championship if injury prevents him from defending the belt in that time frame. Does it seem unfair? Yes. However, champions should defend their belts. If they are going an entire calendar year without defending their championships, are they truly defending champions?
One other suggestion would be for the UFC to start regulating training. Is this unrealistic and unfeasible? Quite possibly. However, if what happened with Chael Sonnen might curb fighters from cheating and using PEDs, fighters must be encouraged to be more careful in training. This is not directed to all fighters rather the main eventers and especially the champions. We have already seen too many main events and title fights fall apart this year already due to injuries. Anthony Pettis will not even be fighting this year due to injury and his commitments to The Ultimate Fighter. Think about that. This will be the first year that there will be no UFC lightweight title fights since the title was revived in 2007.
Something needs to be done about the major champion injuries in the UFC, and it needs to be done now.