Jorge Masvidal is right: UFC could be sued if Colby Covington fights with a brain injury

Jorge Masvidal is right. The UFC could be sued if it books Colby Covington to fight with a brain injury.

By: Trent Reinsmith | 2 months ago
Jorge Masvidal is right: UFC could be sued if Colby Covington fights with a brain injury
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Jorge Masvidal was one of many shocked to learn the UFC had selected Colby Covington as the backup fighter for UFC 286’s main event. While some were dismayed that the UFC would award that role to a man who had not fought in more than a year, Masvidal’s interest was piqued for a more personal reason. Specifically that Covington said, in court filings, that a reported attack by Masvidal in March 2022 had left the former UFC interim welterweight champion with a brain injury.

Jorge Masvidal says he ‘didn’t do sh-t’

“I currently got three felonies, because this b-tch, Colby says I gave him a brain injury, so how the f-ck is he gonna fight for any titles is what I want to know,” Jorge Masvidal said ahead of his UFC 287 fight against Gilbert Burns. “The UFC is gonna get sued if that guy goes in there and something like that happens, right? Because supposedly, allegedly—I didn’t do sh-t—he says I gave him a brain injury. I didn’t do sh-t, though.”

Bloody Elbow checked with Miami-based lawyer Brad Sohn, who has successfully represented numerous pro athletes and their families in brain injury litigation, about the veracity of Jorge Masvidal’s claim that the UFC could open itself to a lawsuit in booking Covington a fight.

Starting from the assumption that Covington, at the very least, presented the UFC with a clean brain MRI, Sohn had the following to say.

Lawyer’s take on Jorge Masvidal’s claim

“What’s tricky is that a person can have significant brain damage and a clean MRI. That’s not to say an MRI is irrelevant. It can rule IN a serious brain injury; it just, unfortunately, can’t rule one out.

“If we assume Covington has a brain injury, the relevant questions are: what is it; how bad is it; when did it occur; and what if anything made it worse?

“For example, if what I’ll (maybe sloppily) call the ‘bar fight’ led to a concussion, it’s entirely possible that he could have fully recovered from it within a few weeks or a month. And it’s highly unlikely, if not impossible, that an MRI would even be able to capture a concussion or demonstrate a recovery. If, on the other hand, there was bleeding on the brain, an MRI would be able to do both.

“I think one of the best things about combat sports is that you’re not allowed to fight again at all for a chunk of time following head impacts (or fights, period); so you have recovery time that you don’t have with football.

“So this a long-winded way of saying that I don’t see inherent liability on UFC related to an MRI per se. But MRI or not, they could still be sued.

“If the UFC is simply putting a fighter out there who has a known brain injury, then yes, that’s a huge legal problem, at least from the standpoint that the UFC could be sued. And again, the MRI isn’t dispositive. I don’t know if UFC does baseline neuropsychological testing but for example with football, they baseline and then retest after suspected injury. Those tests are also far from perfect but can reveal memory and cognitive deficits that can be massive in the presence of a clean MRI.

“That’s not to say the UFC couldn’t defend themselves by: Pointing to prior injuries that they didn’t cause and/or by pointing to the fact that he has demonstrated a knowing acceptance of the risk of brain injury regardless of whether they caused something or not. For that matter, pointing to compliance with state athletic commission rules about MRI might still be a compelling jury argument even with the flaws I’ve pointed out. And there are many more defenses they’d have along these lines.

“So I think there is a bumpy road ahead. Not an impossible one. But a tough one.”

UFC’s plans

Jorge Masvidal is facing felony charges of aggravated battery and criminal mischief. Masvidal is scheduled to appear in court regarding the charges on May 10. Meanwhile, UFC president Dana White has said the promotion plans to book Covington opposite UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards for the titleholder’s next defense. Edwards defeated ex-champion Kamaru Usman via decision in the main event of UFC 286.

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About the author
Trent Reinsmith
Trent Reinsmith

Trent Reinsmith is a freelance writer based out of Baltimore, MD. He has been covering sports for more than 15 years, with a focus on MMA for most of that time. Trent focuses on the day-to-day business of MMA — both inside and outside the cage — for Bloody Elbow.

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