Chad Saunders - sadly not a big enough star for members of the MMA media to take much, if any, time out of their busy schedules full of Chael Sonnen, GSP and Josh Koscheck stories to talk about his recent death.
I just thought I'd throw that question out there to the readers of Cageside Seats. It's something I've been pondering for the last week, ever since Strikeforce's explosive final show of the year, which saw the final four bouts all finish by KO/TKO. A video recap for those that missed the show is shown later on in this report, so you can see the KOs for yourself. The KOs of Matt Lindland and Scott Smith were so brutal that Zach Arnold's immediate reaction was that both Lindland and Smith both needed to retire for their own good:
The immediate reaction to my thoughts about both Scott Smith and Matt Lindland needing to retire is that Smith should get a pass as long as he goes back to Middleweight, but that yes, Matt should call it a career. I think an argument can be made for both. Smith suffered yet another brutal knockout in his career, this time at the hands of Paul Daley. Lindland also suffered a sub-one minute KO loss to Robbie Lawler who was in target practice mode the entire time. Given the relative weakness Scott Coker has displayed in the past in standing up to fighters, I expect both men to continue getting booked. Realistically, they shouldn’t be booked for any more bouts after tonight’s showing in St. Louis.
The accumulation of punishment that both Smith and Lindland have endured over the span of their MMA careers is remarkable. They should not get future bookings simply because watching them get knocked out is fun or entertaining. This is a violent sport and it’s a sport where fighters figure out the realities of their careers and health way too late after the fact when the damage is already done.
I get it. MMA writers, for the most part, shouldn’t think they are entitled to tell a fighter who puts his health on the line in a fight to be an arbiter as to when that fighter should hang up the gloves. However, the body of evidence for both Smith and Lindland to call it quits before they suffer permanent brain damage is mounting fast.
I share Zach's concern for the long term health of fighters like Smith and Lindland, but think that the heat for their inevitable future Strikeforce bookings should go more to the athletic commissions who seem behind the curve regarding the research of the Sports Legacy Institute into CTE compared with other sports like the NFL, NHL and yes even professional wrestling. As Zach confirmed in the comments section, it seems that CTE isn't being discussed enough by the major athletic commissions:
I’ve heard nothing on this front whatsoever as far as the commissions discussing CTE. Ironically, the person who would know the most about this is Dr. Margaret Goodman and she’s not on the commission any more.
But unfortunately our story doesn't end there. On Wednesday, Dave Meltzer reported that former MMA fighter Chad Saunders had committed suicide the day before the Strikeforce show:
--Chad Saunders, who fought from 1999 to 2002, including on the one and only WFA show in Las Vegas, passed away on 12/3, the day after his 29th birthday, believed to be from a suicide.
His brother confirmed the death on the MMA Underground Forums and spoke of an all too familiar downward spiral caused by depression, which suggests that Saunders may have been suffering from CTE at the time of his death:
It is true self inflicted Gun Shot wound. He left me a message on his Bday Dec 2nd. I could tell he was hurting. Then spoke to him again on Fri as well and later he took his own life. Not drug related its was a broken heart and wasted time related he had deep rooted problems for awhile! He will be loved and missed!
Finally, a couple of days ago, on their subscribers only Dec. 11 Observer radio show Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez chided the majority of the MMA media for blowing off a very important topic in MMA and not even trying to understand the issue. They weren't talking about Chad Saunders' suicide before the age of 30 or CTE in MMA, but Chael Sonnen. Maybe they should have been, as it sadly seems that Ivan Trembow's plea that MMA is too violent and enough is enough may have fallen on deaf ears.