Concussions are a hot topic in sports right now as scientists and athletes continue to learn just how depressingly sensitive our brains are to the traumatic activities we force upon them. While football has been a big driver in the conversation, mixed martial arts is obviously another sport where concussions are rampant. How could it not be, where the point of the game is to literally knock your opponent senseless?
So it’s kind of sad, but also a good thing, to learn that UFC legend and current Bellator fighter Tito Ortiz has decided to hang up his gloves over concussion worries following Saturday’s match with Chael Sonnen.
“I’ve had over 25 concussions, over eight surgeries” Ortiz revealed on the ESPN Five Rounds podcast. “Sparring is probably the hardest thing in training… getting punched in the face, concussions. I don’t want any type of brain damage. I don’t know if you guys got the opportunity to watch the Concussion movie with Will Smith. That’s scary. It’s a scary feeling. Over this last year, I got a few small symptoms like that. Forgetful, takes me a second to think about some ideas. I don’t want that to happen [long term]. I want to make sure I walk away at the right time. Now is a good time.”
Twenty-five concussions is a really high number, but not too surprising considering the 42 year old Ortiz has been fighting since 1997 and has 31 fights under his belt. Worse still, Tito is known as one of the hardest working gym rats in the sport, and that probably means he’s seen more wars while training than we’d like to think about.
It’s enough to make you feel bad for laughing whenever Tito mangles his attempts at trash talking. But considering those gaffes go back to his heyday in the ’90s, I like to think his verbal dyslexia is pure Tito and not a disturbing sign that he’s suffered brain damage. And before you judge his mental faculties, remember that he not only called Amanda Nunes beating Ronda Rousey, he put his money where his mouth was and made some serious bank off the outcome.