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UFC extends relationship, donates $1M to Cleveland Clinic brain study

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The UFC is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to the health of fighters.

On Friday, the world's leading MMA promotion announced a five-year extension of its relationship with the Cleveland Clinic and a $1 million contribution to the clinic's Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. The Cleveland Clinic has been spearheading a study into the brain health of fighters and the UFC is the largest combat sports contributor, the UFC said in a press release.

"Research and awareness are key in setting new standards for athlete health and safety," UFC chief operating officer Lawrence Epstein said. "UFC is always looking for opportunities to invest in industry-leading health and wellness programs and providing resources to develop its athletes inside and outside the Octagon."

The Cleveland Clinic's brain health study is focused on finding methods to detect brain injury in athlete exposed to brain trauma as well as finger athletes who might be genetically more susceptible to neurological issues.

The study began in 2011. Other combat sports organizations, like Bellator MMA and boxing's Golden Boy Promotions, have contributed financially and otherwise.

The UFC's press release stated that the clinic's brain health study has included nearly 600 active and retired athletes. Fighters participate voluntarily and then are given free, ongoing assessments of their brain health and function, including MRI scans.