“Traumatic brain injury for combat sports athletes is rarely the result of a singular event. It’s an accumulation of damage, a creeping punch-at-a-time erosion that takes place in every fight and sparring session. For the duration of his professional MMA career between 2006 and 2016, Hague fought once every 14 weeks. If he had a five-week training camp for every fight — short by industry standards — that means in a given year he was taking real-time, fight-prep punishment either in the gym or in a fight for over 200 days out of the year.
We don’t know Hague’s exact training conditions, but even the safest, most precautionary camps put the human body through extreme rigors. That is to say, the sport itself puts the human body through extreme rigors. There is no way to safely be a fighter; the best way to prevent injury of any kind is to not participate in the first place.
Such tragedies put a spotlight on a number of questions that are normally ignored or contentedly left unanswered. Why did the commission let this fight happen, knowing that Hague had been knocked out regularly and recently? Why did Hague, a former kindergarten teacher, want to continue putting his health on the line in this line of work? Why did the referee let the fight go on after Hague had been dropped several times in the opening minutes of the match? Why didn’t his corner throw in the towel? Why do we watch people inflict life-altering brain damage on each other?”