UFC's Dana White creates a slap fight league.  Doctors have concerns.

UFC’s Dana White creates a slap fight league. Doctors have concerns.


A promotional video opens with scenes of roving lights and fighter confrontations, then transitions to screams, chest punches and slaps in slow motion on still faces. The video, posted late last month, is not new. But it was shown ahead of Friday’s press conference where Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White shared the first details about the recently announced slap fight league called Power Slap.

“It all started for me in 2017,” White said at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. “I started seeing some of these slapping videos on social media…and I was blown away by the numbers. Some of them have around 300 million views, so I started thinking. Obviously this thing really works for social media, but I thought it would be great for TV if done the right way.

White said the league, which will be regulated by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) and is set to launch early next year with an eight-episode series to be broadcast nationally on TBS, will include ” rules, rankings and extensive medical testing.” His medical requirements and weight classes will be similar to those featured in mixed martial arts promotions, UFC chief commercial officer Hunter Campbell previously told ESPN.

In a typical slap fight match, two competitors stand face to face and exchange slaps on the face. White sees the promise of tweaking the sport, which has been unregulated for years, using weight classes to create more appropriate matches, limiting the number of rounds in those matches, and instituting various requirements and regulations, including including fouls, mouth guards and earplugs. Campbell told ESPN the league will use the mandatory 10-point system used to score boxing and MMA fights.

“After testing it, it became clear to us that there is huge potential here as a sport, much like the early years of the UFC,” Campbell said. “It made perfect sense to move towards regulation before the sport started, for all the obvious reasons – No. 1, the health and safety of competitors.”

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Concerns about the sport’s safety resurfaced after it was announced last month that the NSAC would regulate Power Slap. But White suggests league organizers and athletes have taken those concerns seriously.

“These guys who have been doing it for a while, there’s actually technique,” he said. “You can actually roll with the slap, they know how to defend, prepare, whatever you want to call it. There’s actually technique in this thing, believe it or not.

Despite White’s emphasis on safety, medical professionals are skeptical of anyone who suggests they can make slapping fights safer.

Nitin Agarwal, a neurosurgeon at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis whose research focuses on traumatic brain injury, disputes the suggestion that slap fights can be made safer.

“When it comes to the physical aspect of martial arts, safety and defense are paramount. By its virtue, slap boxing is an offensive sport. There is no defense,” said Agarwal, who has practiced taekwondo, krav maga and jujitsu.”You can’t use your shoulder to protect yourself, you can’t use your hands to protect yourself, you can’t even turn your head to soften the blow or control where the shot is going to be placed. So it is very worrying.”

In the Power Slap promotional video, a rapid sequence of slapping is followed by clips of bodies bending over and falling to the floor – or into the arms of waiting attendants.

Agarwal said just one such slap could be “life changing”, adding that “no preparation prevents the actual blow.

“You see these people fainting all at once. In reality, what it is is that they have just suffered a concussion. They suffered a traumatic brain injury,” he said. “Anyone who comes to the emergency room after a blow like this is undergoing the full trauma workup, including a panoramic scan, which includes a full body scan and a head scan. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were both visible and occult brain damage. … So, I am very worried about these participants.

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