On Tuesday, MMA Fighting’s Steven Marocco published a difficult, but powerful story on former UFC lightweight fan favorite Spencer ‘The King’ Fisher, who admitted that he is dealing with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) symptoms as a result of his days as a mixed martial artist.
Neither the UFC nor Dana White provided comment for the story, but White did speak to media in Abu Dhabi this week ahead of Saturday’s Fight Island 7 show. He addressed the UFC’s recent $1 million donation to the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, and then shrugged off Fisher’s health problems as just a part of the sport.
“Listen, we’re all learning everyday about the brain injury stuff,” White told MMA Junkie. “We’ve been invested in this [Lou] Ruvo Center [at the Cleveland Clinic] to try and figure out more. We’re now interested in this thing just came out on Real Sports about psychedelics and we’ve actually reached out to the Johns Hopkins guys and we’re diving into that.
“But listen, he’s not the first and he’s definitely not going to be the last. This is a contact sport and anybody who’s done this younger, myself included, is dealing with brain issues. It’s part of the gig.”
White apparently was an amateur boxer before becoming a boxercise instructor, but certainly never an actual professional combatant. This seems right in line with what Fisher and his wife Emily relayed to Marocco about White’s reaction when the fighter was initially not medically cleared to fight back in 2013:
If doctors wouldn’t let him fight, Spencer reasoned, there must be something else he could do. Emily remembers UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta’s look of concern as she described changes in Spencer’s behavior. Spencer remembers the UFC president’s attempt at empathy.
“Dana tried to tell us that he had problems, too,” he says.
“Because he used to fight, spar,” adds Emily with a snicker.
After Fisher’s career came to an end as a result of concerning EEG tests, the UFC placed him in a brand ambassador role, which included attending “UFC-designated fan interaction activities,” as well as other services as directed by the promotion—such as media interviews and social media posts. He would then receive $5,000 per month as part of this agreement. According to Fisher, he rarely did any of these things while remaining with the promotion, and was essentially getting paid to do nothing. That arrangement was terminated in early 2017. The move was reportedly made in conjunction with the company’s plans to reduce costs following the 2016 sale from Zuffa to WME-IMG.
The 44-year-old Fisher, best known for his trilogy with Sam Stout, is now “permanently disabled and unable to work” according to neurologist Rodney Short. Emily Fisher told Marocco that she wishes for her husband to receive some sort of insurance coverage from the UFC to “help cover the gap for medications and treatment.”
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