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Brain damage in MMA, known by its scientific name as CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy), is a degenerative brain disease. In mixed martial arts (MMA), CTE occurs in fighters who receive repeated blows to their heads during fights. 

However, no matter how tough they are, there are many MMA fighters who have brain damage, and CTE is the unfortunate reality these fighters live with for the rest of their lives. 

The brain injuries they receive during their careers can cause them difficulty functioning well in society, have memory issues, and on the more serious side, even lose their lives. 

Brain Damage and MMA

The world of MMA is undoubtedly one of the most exciting sports, which is why the fights attract so many audiences to watch these fighters battle it out. 

However, the sport can seriously impact the fighters’ bodies, which you can learn more about on

The biggest impact is perhaps on the fighters’ brains. Many MMA fighters suffer from brain injuries. 

Spencer Fisher

The former lightweight UFC competitor Spencer Fisher competed in his final match in 2012. After that, Fisher soon began to experience health issues. Fisher thinks that the wounds he has received throughout his fighting career are what led to his current state.

Fisher has been unable to carry out mundane tasks because of the numerous concussions over his fighting career.

Moreover, Fisher frequently experiences memory loss, vertigo, sadness, and excruciating migraines. In recent years, he has tried to make a living by instructing MMA sessions at a nearby gym.

Unfortunately, he finds it difficult to perform them consistently due to the incapacitating nature of his illnesses.

Renato Sobral

Renato Sobral competed for the UFC from 2005 through 2007. After losing by TKO twice in Bellator, he gave up on the sport in 2013. 

In his 16-year career, Renato “Babalu” Sobral lost seven knockouts. Due to the repeated blows to his head Sobral gained during his career, he has developed Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). 

For years, Sobral has battled a range of cognitive problems. Seizures, physical impairment, balance concerns, and memory issues are a few. Sobral is now legally blind in his left eye due to the blows he has received throughout his career.

Tim Hague 

On June 18, 2017, Canadian heavyweight Tim Hague’s life ended unexpectedly and shockingly. Hague was knocked out cold by former CFL defensive end and boxer Adam Braidwood two days before his death. 

Hague, a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, was only 34 years old when he passed away from a deadly brain hemorrhage due to the injuries caused by Braidwood’s vicious shots.

Then, Hague’s family sued the City of Edmonton, K.O. Boxing Canada, and the Edmonton Combat Sports Commission due to their negligence, costing Hague his life.

It was discovered that Hague acquired CTE due to the wrongful death lawsuit. According to the autopsy results Hague may have been suffering from CTE for years due to the blows he received to his head during his career.

Krzysztof Soszynski

The 35-year-old former UFC fighter Krzysztof Soszynski boldly shared the reasons for his choice to retire from the sport in 2014 while also making the retirement announcement. 

At that point, Soszynski had been battling Igor Pokrajac at UFC for more than two years, losing the fight in which he suffered his first-ever career-ending knockout after just 35 seconds. Soszynski said that he has no memory of being in the Octagon and that his brain did not begin to function again for 40 minutes after the fight.

Despite the diagnosis, Soszynski has not given up and has gone on to become the UFC’s Director of MMA for their American gyms and getting small acting roles in films like Logan, Tapped Out, etc. 

Tito Ortiz 

Another MMA fighter suffering the consequences of repeated blows to the head is former UFC lightweight champion and UFC Hall of Fame inductee Tito Ortiz. One instance of brain injury’s effects on the fighter is that despite losing to Forrest Griffin by a split decision at UFC in 2009, he does not remember it.

Ortiz claimed that the issue was not the fight itself, as it was a concussion he had sustained during training a few weeks prior due to an unintentional headbutt. After that, Ortiz does not recall a significant amount of time.

However, that was just the beginning for the MMA fighter. The former champion estimates he has suffered over 25 concussions during his lengthy career, mostly while sparring, which was a major contributing factor in his decision to retire earlier this year. 

Wanderlei Silva

Wanderlei Silva, Brazilian-American former MMA fighter, has competed in Japan’s Pride Fighting Championships and the UFC. 

Whether he wins or loses, “The Axe Murderer” is known for his gory, violent, brawling fights, just as the infamous full-contact sparring matches he engaged in almost every day during the peak of the “Chute Boxe” gym.

However, this brutal style has earned him some brutal knockouts from some of the top competitors in the field, including Chris Leben, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Dan Henderson, and Vitor Belfort.

Alarmingly, all of this has had an adverse impact on Silva’s brain, as the athlete revealed in 2016 that he exhibits 12 of the 15 signs of brain damage, including memory loss.

Jamie Warner 

Jamie Varner, a 35-fight veteran of the UFC and WEC, announced his retirement in 2014 at 30 because of concerns about the brain injuries he had sustained over the years.

Although he only had one knockout loss to Abel Trujillo less than a year before he put up his gloves, he feels that the true harm was done during sparring. 

Varner had a concussion just nine days before making his last trip to the Octagon, but when he went to the doctor about it, he was shocked that scan results showed he had experienced more than 30 concussions overall.

Varner’s situation had gotten so terrible that even months after his retirement, he still had problems speaking clearly and forgetting basic things like whether he had brushed his teeth or washed his face.

George Goodridge 

George Goodridge is a former heavyweight kickboxer and MMA fighter that started his career out of Barrie, Ontario. Goodridge joined the UFC at the very beginning of the organization. 

Goodridge competed for UFC in 1996, when MMA was still not considered a mainstream sport. He competed for various promotions; his final match occurred in 2009. Moreover, he was diagnosed with “Chronic traumatic encephalopathy” in 2012.

According to Goodridge, his condition makes him feel “crippled.” in his words. Additionally, the former fighter has opened up about his battle with depression. The former MMA fighter stated that he anticipates his health will deteriorate further.


To sum it up, this is only a small number of MMA fighters who have brain damage. Many fighters have ended their promising careers due to a CTE diagnosis, and some have even lost their lives. 

Unfortunately, when you are choosing a career where frequent blows to the head are normal, there is nothing to do but continue to raise awareness. 

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