The UFC is a hard-hitting place where fighters are all but guaranteed to suffer some physical trauma during their careers. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has become an increasingly apparent issue in contact sports. From the NFL to Muay Thai, athletes are succumbing to this severe, neurodegenerative issue in alarming numbers.
Symptoms of CTE include mood swings, amnesia, difficulty concentrating, dizziness and, eventually, dementia. While a complete diagnosis can only be performed post-mortem, doctors are often able to identify it through the symptoms it causes.
CTE affects those who've sustained repeated blows to the head throughout their lives. Because of this, athletes in contact sports are some of the most at-risk individuals. Currently, there is no official treatment used to help sufferers of the disease.
Here are three former UFC fighters who struggled with CTE:
#3. Former UFC light heavyweight fighter Renatu Sobral
UFC, Strikeforce and Bellator MMA journeyman Renatu ‘Babalu’ Sobral (37-12) suffered seven knockouts during his 16-year career. The damage done to his brain from the constant trauma of getting hit led to him struggling with CTE.
Sobral has been struggling with a variety of cognitive issues for years now. These include seizures, sensory impairments, balance issues and memory problems. The punishment Sobral endured over his career has also rendered him blind in his left eye.
A former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, Sobral’s UFC record was 6-4 including a submission win over Chael Sonnen and a TKO loss to Chuck Lidell. A master of Luta Livre - a type of Brazilian submission wrestling - Sobral also holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
He retired from the sport in 2013 after suffering back-to-back TKO losses in Bellator.
#2. Former UFC heavyweight fighter Tim Hague
Canadian heavyweight Tim Hague’s life came to an abrupt and shocking end on June 18, 2017. Two days prior to his untimely passing, Hague (21-13) had been knocked out cold by CFL defensive end-turned boxer Adam Braidwood. The damage from Braidwood’s ferocious shots caused Hague to suffer a fatal brain hemorrhage at just 34 years old.
A purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Hague relied heavily on his power in the cage and was an efficient wrestler on the mat. His majority decision loss to Chris Tuchscherer at UFC 109 is often regarded as one of the most controversial decisions in UFC history. Joe Rogan even went as far as to deride the decision on air at the time.
Hague’s family ultimately sued the City of Edmonton, K.O. Boxing Canada and the Edmonton Combat Sports Commission for gross negligence. The wrongful death lawsuit led to the revelation that Hague had CTE. The discovery was made during his autopsy. Having suffered several brutal KO losses towards the end of his MMA career, Hague could well have been quietly suffering for years before his death.
#1. Former UFC lightweight fighter Spencer Fisher
The fan favorite ‘Porkchop’ has been struggling with increasingly severe neurological issues for years now. Fisher, a three-time UFC ‘Fight of the Night’ winner, retired from the sport after a three-match skid.
Growing up, Fisher was a student of Jeet Kune Do and Shotokan Karate. From there, Fisher eventually took up boxing before moving into MMA full time.
Having sustained multiple concussions over the course of his fighting career, Fisher has been left unable to complete regular daily tasks. During medical examinations of his condition, it was revealed that Fisher (24-9) could not tandem walk or hop on one foot.
On a day-to-day basis, Fisher is prone to suffering from memory loss, dizziness, depression and severe headaches. ‘The King’ has attempted to make some income by coaching MMA classes at a nearby gym in recent years. Unfortunately, the debilitating nature of his symptoms often get in the way of him being able to conduct them consistently.
When asked about the tragic state of Fisher’s health earlier this year, UFC president Dana White stated:
“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."
Watch our exclusive interview with Dustin 'The Diamond' Poirier right here!