MMA Medical Suspensions

After the dust settles, and the cage is dismantled, the aftermath of the night’s fights takes a less entertaining turn, but one that will impact the near future of the men and women who fought the night prior – medical suspensions.

It sounds worse than it actually is, and there are no shortage of headlines exclaiming the latest medical suspensions. Holly Holm’s battle with Cris Cyborg at UFC 219 earned her a 60 day suspension, though Cyborg herself wasn’t required to take any time off.

Few fans are aware that fighters undergo post fight medical examinations, and even fewer know that it is so common as to be almost unnoteworthy for fighters to be banned from fighting again for a specific period of time.

Medical suspensions often consist of two time limits – time before the fighter is allowed to spar and time before the fighter is allowed to compete. Medical suspensions can last as long as 180 days (that’s six months for those of you who need more coffee before you can math) or as little as few weeks. Longer suspensions are often precautionary and can be shortened with clearance from a medical professional or from satisfactory scans. The bigger the injuries, the longer the suspension. Being knocked out often comes with a three month suspension at minimum. As we learn more about head trauma, it’s also likely that we will see medical suspensions evolve to reflect the serious recovery time needed after a hard fight, especially when a fighter is knocked out. Deeper cuts or broken bones can also earn lengthy time outs. In the most extreme cases, fighters may be suspended indefinitely or until cleared by a passing a medical evaluation.

Jozette Cotton and Sarah Patterson have a bloody battle

Most fighters are not looking to reenter the cage for a few months, so the common 30 and 45 days suspensions are little more than a formality. Suspensions will often include a ‘no contact’ addition as well, requiring that the fighter refrain from physical contact such as grappling or sparring for a set amount of time. Holly Holm’s 60 day suspension came with a 45 day ‘no contact’ rule.

Often, the tricky part is that there are no unified regulations in MMA. In some states, the state athletic commission regulates all combat sports. Some states have no regulation for combat sports. In others, the boxing commission controls regulation. In the states where MMA is regulated by the state athletic or boxing commission, medical  suspensions are handed out by these commissions. Promotions may also put their own rules into place, though they cannot supersede the commission’s rules. Most states’ athletic commissions suspend fighters for a minimum of 7-14 days, though again, as most fighters only compete a few times a year, this is often of little note.

Medical suspensions – a little known but common occurrence. If you’re a newer fan, pay attention the next time you watch a UFC event, and you’ll notice in the days following that a list will be released of the fighters suspended, and why, and for how long. Suspensions can be a nonissue or a major inconvenience, depending on the length and cause, and will remain an ever evolving part of the fight game.


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