Broken skulls have largely been a joking affair since Tito’s ‘cracked skull’ speech after his second fight with Forrest Griffin, but they’re pretty serious business and we’re starting to see them more and more in MMA. On the heels of this weekend’s MMA death, I thought this story on African fighter JP Joubert (and the way it was presented *metal guitar* WARRIUR!) was fairly interesting:

The picture above is an X-ray of Joubert’s skull following a light heavyweight fight on July 27 in South Africa. At the EFC Africa 15 event in Johannesburg, Joubert took several knees, elbows and fists from Norman Wessels in the first round of their championship bout.

According to the promotion’s injury report, Joubert suffered a “frontal sinus fracture and concussion.”

Despite a broken skull, Joubert incredibly turned the tables in the second round and won the fight via knockout to become EFC Africa’s first-ever light heavyweight champion.

That’s worth repeating: J.P. Joubert broke his skull and still came back to win the fight. He was taken to the hospital for a CT scan and treatment, but is expected to make a full recovery after surgery.

The first line of the article: “Toughness has a new name. It’s called J.P. Joubert.” This may be where being tough is also being very very stupid. Here’s a tale from another fighter, Ramsey Dewey, who’s skull was broken during a RUFF MMA fight in China, and it doesn’t have an uplifting happy ending:

I had my frontal bone (the hardest part of the human skull) shattered in two places with a single punch from lightweight fighter Wang Guan in their first event. I don’t care if he’s the #5 pound for pound top fighter in China and the current lightweight sanda, Muay Thai, and K1 rules kickboxing national champ of the PRC- human hands can’t do that without a little extra help.

I’m not accusing anyone of cheating. They don’t have regulations about wrapping hands in most Chinese fight shows (RUFF was the first MMA show claiming to be held under unified rules in China.) The Chinese fighters just taped their hands with the material they were given by the promoter (a combination of gauze, sports tape, and illegal elastic adhesive tape) in the way they were familiar with (loading the tape over the knuckles to make a cast)

No one explained unified rules standards for taping to the fighters or the officials before the show. Sanda fighters usually make a tape cast over their knuckles to make their punches harder- which isn’t that big of a deal under 12oz boxing gloves. However, under non-padded MMA gloves (especially the cheap imitation leather Badboy gloves they used for RUFF) that kind of tape job turned fists into literal hammers. It’s very illegal, and very dangerous.

My skull is no longer structurally sound enough to fight. According to the doctors I consulted, the damage from the depression fracture is irreparable. At this point, what was once the hardest part of my head is now the weakest and getting hit there by anyone at a professional level will result in serious brain injuries or even death.

I wonder how many times this sort of glove loading is going on. It would be bad enough if it were just fighters and coaches knowingly cheating, but in this case it sounds like no one knows what they’re doing and many are wrapping their hands for competition the same way they would if they were wearing those giant boxing mittens. As with America, it’s only a matter of time before the scale of the sport hits a point where people are going to start dying if something isn’t done about stuff like this.