Mixed martial arts is an incredibly brutal sport. We've all seen the results painted on the faces of fighters after an epic battle in the UFC Octagon. It's a mixture of "what was I thinking" regret, bruises, flicks of blood, and just a hint of warrior pride.
But if you ask the sport's top fighters, almost to a man, fighting in the cage is the least of their worries. It's the training, the constant push and pull of grappling, and the endless sparring that are the real cause for concern. It's in the gym and the dojo that careers are forever altered. UFC superstar Georges St. Pierre is just the latest example.
St. Pierre, arguably the greatest fighter of all time, blew out his anterior cruciate ligament preparing for battle in the Octagon. His long awaited title fight with Nick Diaz at UFC 143 is off the books - Diaz will fight Carlos Condit for an interim belt instead. UFC President Dana White says it will be at least ten months before GSP is ready to compete again. When you factor in the eight months since his last bout with Jake Shields in Toronto, it will be a minimum of eighteen months between appearances for the sport's top star.
Worse still? We may never see the same GSP who has dominated the UFC, losing just once in the last seven years. While medical science has made huge strides since the days an injury like this would spell certain doom, nothing is certain. St. Pierre, a fighter who relies heavily on a significant physical edge, is particularly vulnerable to the after affects of a serious injury.
St. Pierre is famous for pushing his body to the limits. Not only does he mix in non traditional methods like gymnastics into his training regime, his workouts are the stuff of legend. Are MMA fighters pushing too hard before fights? Can the body withstand the rigors of what seems like full time training? A rash of injuries has many MMA stars asking themselves these important questions. Just how much can they handle before they do themselves permanent damage.
For the UFC, it's another in what feels like a never ending cavalcade of canceled main events. St. Pierre is an especially big loss. Not only is he one of the best fighters in the world, he's also a gigantic draw at the box office. The company's estimate pay per view buys fell for the first time in years in 2011. St. Pierre's absence will do little to help that trend in 2012.