NAC and physician’s group spar over MayMac glove size

Friday, August 18, 2017

UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather petitioned the Nevada State Athletic Commission to use 8 oz gloves, rather than the 10 oz gloves that are mandated for a boxing match at 154 lbs. The request was granted, despite the objections of the Association of Ringside Physicians.

The commission argued that despite the bout being held exclusively under boxing rules, it was to some extent a “hybrid” fight, given that McGregor never boxed professionally before. The argument that no scientific evidence exists that lighter gloves are more dangerous.

The commissioners argued that Mayweather vs. McGregor was a “hybrid” fight — McGregor is an MMA champion coming over from the UFC — and there was no true scientific evidence stating that lighter gloves are more dangerous from a health and safety point of view.

ARP board member Dr. Jonathan Gelber is a sports medicine doctor, orthopedic surgeon, and founder of the Mixed Martial Arts Research Society. He was not impressed.

“Certainly, it shows that a commission will bow to the pressure of the fighters when those decisions need to be made by the commission and taken into account with advisement from the medical personnel, either the ARP or the commission doctors,” said Dr. Gelber to Marc Raimondi for MMA Fighting. “Certainly it now leaves it open for any fighter in that weight class or any other weight class to do the same thing and lobby the commission to change the gloves that are allowed to be used without any scientific evidence to back it up.”

“As a medical advisory board, our role is to put forth statements or consensus agreements that help to guide the commissions who ultimately make the rules, so that they act in a manner that’s best for the sport and best for the fighters’ health and safety. And we wanted to make sure that someone representing the medical committee and the scientific community has a voice in these decisions, especially this one that seems to have been make so quickly and was sort of unprecedented.”

NAC executive director Bob Bennett pointedly rejected the characterization.

“That’s certainly a poor choice of words coming from the ARP and it’s definitely inaccurate,” said Bennett. “We unequivocally disagree with the ARP’s opinion. Why aren’t they being more concerned and being proactive on the use of 4-ounce gloves in MMA?”

Bennett’s question is a curious one. The answer has been decided for close to two decades. MMA gloves are smaller than those used in boxing because the clinching, ground, and distance aspects of MMA minimize the amount of time fighters can throw full power shots, and because large gloves render the safer, grappling aspects of the sport nearly impossible. Bennett also said that NSAC ringside physicians approved of the smaller gloves.

“We rely heavily upon our ringside physicians’ opinions in an effort to ensure the health and safety of the fighter,” said Bennett. “We have outstanding ringside physicians and lean heavily on their expertise and opinions. Furthermore, a commissioner on the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Dr. J. Daniel Carpenter, who is a board-certified doctor disagreed in an open forum with the ARP.”

Dr. Carpenter is an ophthalmologist.

Every MMA coach knows that bare knuckle striking results in soft tissue damage, but less head trauma, as a bare fist cannot hit as hard as a taped one. And every MMA coach knows that 16-ounce gloves give you less of a headache than do 4-ounce gloves. However, there is no conclusive research to back that up.

That is is going to change. The NSAC plans to start a study on glove size, and the MayMac gloves will the first used.

“We’d be happy to collaborate [with] them,” Dr. Gelber. “The questions that we want to answer are: does glove size, the shape of the glove, the weight of the glove, the motion of the strike, does that increase or decrease brain trauma or other injuries?”

“Now mixed martial arts and boxing are finally entering into that mainstream world and we’re trying to bring sports medicine and science to these athletes. We’re a bit behind in doing research, but there’s a lot of likeminded individuals, like myself, the ARP, who are going to go forward like they do in other sports and ask these questions. We can find out what’s safer. That’s a big journey, but at least we’re heading in the right direction.”