UFC Releases Jonathan Meunier, Citing Brain Safety Concerns
For as long as combat sports have been in existence, injuries have occurred. As developments in science and medicine advance, the focus on these injuries has intensified. This is evident in violent sports like football and boxing in addition to mixed martial arts. Specifically, the injuries in question are related to the brain, such as head trauma and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Recently, the UFC terminated the contract of Canadian welterweight Jonathan “The French Spider” Meunier (8-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) citing similar medical concerns.
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New UFC ownership group Endeavor has taken a close look at the contractual practices of the organizations and has made several changes. The change that impacted the decision regarding Meunier had to do with precautionary measures. The UFC felt that a lack of data surrounding the conditions in Meunier’s medical history made them unable to secure his safety.
The issue of note in Meunier’s medical history happens to be related to the brain. It appears Meunier underwent surgery in 2010 to remove an arteriovenous break from his brain. According to the Mayfield Clinic, arteriovenous abnormalities exist when veins connect to arteries without the typical transition through a capillary bed. In such cases, danger occurs when “[v]eins are not able to handle the pressure of the blood coming directly from the arteries.” As the veins “stretch and enlarge”, the “weakened” blood vessels “can rupture and bleed” and pose a risk of causing aneurysms.
Per Dr. Geneviève Milot, who conducted Meunier’s surgery, and Dr. Robert Filiatrault, a neurologist, however, Meunier was given the all-clear to pursue an MMA career. In Dr. Filiatrault’s report, the neurologist stated that Meunier was “not in any greater danger than anyone in the sport.” Despite his doctors’ confidence in his recovery, Endeavor decided to terminate the Canadian’s contract.
Meunier, who amassed an impressive 8-1 professional record, was a highly touted prospect in the UFC. “The French Spider” suffered his lone defeat in 2016 at the hands of top ranked welterweight contender Colby Covington. Meunier rebounded with a unanimous-decision victory over Rich Walsh in November, 2016 and has been inactive since.
It is not all bleak for the Quebec native, however, as Meunier was quickly signed by local Canadian promotion TKO MMA. According to a press release from the promotion, Meunier has joined their organization and will fight in his hometown in May. TKO’s president, Stephane Patry, added that Meunier’s addition was “great news for our organization and fans.” Acknowledging the qualms about Meunier’s safety, Patry cited TKO’s consultation of “neurological specialists, our doctors, and the neurosurgeon that operates on Jonathan” in addition to “the Quebec athletic commision” as evidence of their due diligence and concern. Ultimately, Patry concluded that he was “very confident in [their] decision to go against the UFC’s position” and bring Meunier on board.
Regardless of the outcome, it is promising to see MMA organizations taking a longer look at the trauma fighters sustain. Thankfully, it appears as though Meunier is in good health and that all appropriate consultations were made. Both the UFC and TKO, while they ultimately disagreed on Meunier’s ability to safely fight, appear to have made significant efforts to ensure the well-being of Meunier. Hopefully, fighter safety issues like this one are handled in similar fashion, with doctors, specialists, and athletic commision members having their input taken into account.
From MMA Today, we wish Jonathan Meunier all the best in his future, and look forward to watching the world-class welterweight safely compete once again.