There’s no hiding the cost of combat sports. Even a hundred years ago, fighters and physicians were well aware that a career in the ring carried a heavy risk of long-term mental impediment. The terminology has changed over time, as has our understanding of just exactly what causes the damage, and how. But there are still few, if any, ways to prevent that damage from taking place for people looking to make money out of fighting.
Only two fights into his pro boxing career, that kind of cost-benefit analysis already seems to be at the front of Jake Paul’s mind. The YouTube-star-turned-pugilist spoke to the media this week, ahead of his Saturday PPV bout against ex-UFC welterweight – and former Bellator/ONE champion – Ben Askren. After being asked about the increasing risk of moving from fighting fellow celebrities to trained combat sports athletes, Paul revealed that he’s already paying the price for his boxing endeavors, but that just serves to prove his dedication.
“Yes and no,” Paul responded, when asked whether he was “worried” about the increasing risk of fighting better opponents. “You know, it’s a dangerous sport. And that’s why, when people question my dedication to it—it’s like, I’m showing up every single day. I’m putting my mental health on the line, my brain is on the line. Like you said, I’ve gone and gotten brain scans and have early signs of CTE. But, I love this sport and wouldn’t trade it for anything else. And I’m a fighter and people will see that. Whether it’s after Saturday night or whether it’s a year from now, they will see that I’m a fighter.”
Currently, there are no widely available tests for the early detection of CTE (although neurologists may make a surface level prognostication from talking with patients). However, if Paul truly is starting to see signs of the early stages of CTE, he may find getting licensed in the future that much more difficult, if for no other reason than his public declaration of the diagnosis. Former UFC vet Mark Hunt was removed from a UFC card in 2017 after telling a reporter about his own struggles with speech and concentration as a result of his long fighting career. Hunt was eventually able to return to competition, however, after undergoing additional testing.
Paul vs. Askren takes place this Saturday, April 17th, in Atlanta, GA. The boxing card is also expected to host the debut of former UFC champion Frank Mir, taking on ex-IBF cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham.
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