UFC, Viacom and top boxing promoters take to Capitol Hill to unite in support of fighter brain study

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

Washington, D.C. - famous for its legendary legislative and political battles between bitter rivals - played host to a strong demonstration of bipartisanship when Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and John McCain (R-AZ) along with representatives from the UFC, Viacom and the top promoters in boxing announced their collective support Tuesday for the Professional Fighter Study of the Cleveland Health Clinic on Capitol Hill. The study, ongoing since 2011, is dedicated to studying the effects of repeated head trauma in fighters.

Along with UFC and Viacom, boxing's Top Rank and Golden Boy have collectively given $600,000 to finance the study, however, the Cleveland Clinic itself is the largest contributor to the effort with over $2 million in resources allotted in house.

UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, along with UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and top contender Glover Teixeira, stressed their company's commitment to the study, saying UFC was "all in", both in terms of financial contributions as well as fighters. Currently the study consists of 450 fighters, roughly 25 of them retired. The majority of the test subjects are MMA fighters, most of which come from the ranks of the UFC.

Representatives from the Cleveland Clinic suggested they'd like to push the number of overall test subjects to 650.

Bernard Hopkins, the IBF light heavyweight champion as well as Golden Boy representative and study participant, said the study has far reaching implications. Not only does the study affecting fighter health, but could act as a way to take preventative measures in the future both for trained combatants and anyone routinely training in the gym. "You train every day, sparring, pounding, day in and day out," Hopkins said. "The damage isn't done by a blow in a fight but in the accumulation of damage in the gym."

Spike TV President Kevin Kay, on behalf of Viacom (who owns Bellator MMA and airs GLORY kickboxing events), noted Bellator's former lightweight champion Michael Chandler, who stood at the lectern next to Kay as he spoke, was someone whose health should be valued.

"Look at how pretty Mike is. He's also incredibly articulate," Kay noted. "We want to keep him that way."

For their part, Reid and McCain, both of whom have a background as hobbyists or amateurs in boxing, used boxing metaphors to describe their own legislative battles over the years. When asked by a reporter who would win between the Reid and McCain in a boxing contest, McCain deferred to his Senate colleague.

"I've found that Sen. Reid is a very resourceful fighter," McCain contended. "I'm not sure about the outcome, but it would've been a lot of fun."

While other brain trauma studies are currently taking place around the country, Jeffrey Cummings, the Cleveland Clinic's medical director, noted his hospital's efforts were the first to measure active athletes as opposed to primarily reitred players. In addition, the Cleveland Clinic study is partly funded by the Defense Department, who hopes to coordinate their findings with other brain injury studies related to military deployment and improvised explosive devices (IED).

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