The wear and tear a hard-fought combat sports career has on the brain been evident almost as long as modern combat sports have been a major source of entertainment. Stories of former champions becoming ‘punch drunk,’ losing motor skills, and having trouble speaking clearly or remembering details go back all through the 20th century, long before more the more formal diagnoses of CTE and traumatic brain injury.
Every athlete that chooses to make a long career out of fighting has to face the potential that they could end up carrying the damage of their craft for the rest of their lives, well after they’ve decided to stop competing. It’s not a fact lost on current middleweight contender Darren Till has he prepares for his headlining bout this Saturday against Robert Whittaker in Abu Dhabi.
While speaking to reporters during media day, Till spoke about his desire to mold his in-cage style more around defense, like Floyd Mayweather Jr. did in boxing, rather than the exciting wars of fan favorites like Justin Gaethje and Max Holloway (transcript via MMA Fighting).
“One big thing I’ve always known throughout my career, the wars take the toll on you, and whoever you are, you can see them taking the toll,” Till said.
“No disrespect, but when you look at guys like Justin Gaethje, and I look at Max Holloway now, and sometimes I seem glimpses of them slurring a little bit cause of the wars they’ve been in,” he added. “All respect to the wars, but it ain’t a smart choice when you’re fighting.”
“You want to sort of look in the direction of someone like Floyd Mayweather. Someone like that. He’s 40-plus [years old], whatever he is now, and he’s got all his brain cells because he hardly got hit.
“So I think them wars, they take the toll on you, and they do take the toll on your chin. I think anyone I touch anyway at middleweight, I found myself I’m going to hurt with that left hand but we’ll see.”
Till added that he plans to stick to stay cautious and stick to the gameplan, especially after his loss to Jorge Masvidal, who Till admits he “sort of overlooked.”
“If only I had done it against Masvidal, I would probably be on the cover of EA Sports right now,” Till remarked, speaking of his 2019 KO loss to the recent welterweight title contender.
UFC on ESPN: Whittaker vs. Till takes place on July 25th at Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. The card will feature a trilogy bout between former PRIDE Grand Prix and UFC champion Mauricio Shogun Rua and longtime rival Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the co-main event. The heavyweight debut of former light heavyweight title contender Alexander Gustfasson will take place on the main card as well, when he faces former heavyweight champ Fabricio Werdum.
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