By their very nature, fighters are meant to inflict upon themselves and each other a certain level of physical hurt to reach even a modicum of success. But time, and medical studies in football and even MMA, have taught us something that should have been obvious long ago: You don’t mess with the brain. And now we have Bellator champ Eddie Alvarez – who had to withdraw from the organization’s upcoming pay-per-view due to the lingering effects of a concussion – to hammer that oh-so-important point home.
According to Alvarez, the injury was sustained during a wrestling practice, when his head banged into teammate Abel Trujillo’s hip. The symptoms that manifested from the brain trauma paint a nightmarish picture.
As Alvarez told MMAJunkie:
“When the injury first happened, I was having trouble just with my daily, regular day,” he said. “Shaking my head ‘no’ really hurt, really put pressure on my head. When I tried to look side to side, it was really putting pressure on my head. Raising my voice too loud really hurt, so I couldn’t really yell, and I have three kids – I have to yell a lot.
“I’m improving every day. When I go to shake my head a little bit, the pressure is a little bit less than when it was when it first happened, so (I’m) just giving my brain time to heal.”
Alvarez described his plight even further to Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour.
“When I get into the training room, any kind of impact training, even when I shadow box — if I throw my own punches, just the stopping and the jolting motion — it really puts pressure on my brain,” he said. “Really, if I can describe it, it feels like my brain was like sort of bruised. It feels like a squeezing of my brain. My doctor says it was vestibular system that was sort of out of whack, which is the system that controls my head and my eye movement.
“So whenever I would try to do this motion, or if something happened really fast to my left or right side and I’d try to look, I would get a super, really like excruciating pain in my brain. So, I was probably foolish for thinking I could fight. But I was already too invested in my training camp to just say no. It was stupid to me to think about when I look back in retrospect, but I was very invested in the fight and I felt like I was going to be able to get past it.”
Anyone who’s sparred hard or trained to the extent where they got bonked on the noggin’ will tell you that “getting your bell rung” is no fun. But it’s often something that fighters power through. Credit goes to Alvarez then for acknowledging the trauma his brain suffered, and letting himself heal in lieu of riding into battle – and we know from experience anytime he’s in the cage with Michael Chandler, it is a battle. After all, what good would Alvarez, or any fighter, be if their brain turned to mush?
The answer to that question is no good at all.