AKA is known as one of the premiere gyms in the sport of MMA. It certainly has not had any shortage of success or champions come from under it’s umbrella, with names like Cain Velasquez, Daniel Cormier, Luke Rockhold, and Khabib Nurmagomedov boasted by the academy. Unfortunately, the gym has also become known for its many injuries, which have lead to many pull-outs of events, including from each of the above names listed at one or more point in their careers. (Via Bloody Elbow):
“It is the nature of the sport,” AKA head coach Javier Mendez told BJPenn.com Radio. “You know, there’s a lot of injuries involved in the sport. It’s not something that we have mastered yet, but I’ll tell you what, it is something that we’ve gotten better at.”
“Let me tell you something. Our injury rate has dropped almost over 50 percent.”
There has been a sudden drop in injury news concerning AKA fighters, so Mendez’s 50% number does seem to jibe with the new perception. So what changed? Why and how has something that has plagued the gym for years suddenly faded so drastically?
“Well, little simple things, from having the guys talk to me when they don’t want to spar, Mendez explained. They have issues with their girlfriend or their family, you know, they didn’t get enough sleep, or they have a little injury…I want them to point it out to me. I want them to tell me what’s going on. So this way I’ll say, ‘okay, you’re just boxing today or okay, you’re not sparring today.’”
However, sometimes no news does not mean good news. Although AKA has dropped its injury rate and, in the process, it’s pull-out rate, sometimes Mendez would prefer if a fighter did pull out if an injury does occur, as was the case with Gabriel Benitez who Mendez urged to cancel his fight with Andre Fili in 2015:
“[Gabriel Benitez] was scheduled to fight Andre Fili, and he was injured. He was injured, he couldn’t do nothing, and I just pleaded with him to cancel the fight,” Mendez said. “Please cancel the fight. But he needed the money. He needed the money. He could not cancel the fight. So he had no sparring, zero sparring. He was injured going into the fight, his confidence was down to the dumps, and now you fight Andre Fili for God’s sake. Come on. I mean, I knew that kid was really special.”
“So I just said, ‘Please cancel the fight.’ No. He took the fight anyways. What happens? Boom. Taken care of. So those are the things, the unknown things that the fans don’t know and they don’t understand and they don’t care to hear either.
“All they care about is come fight time, you either win or you don’t,” he added. “And that’s what I tell my guys. I go, ‘Fans don’t give a shit whether you’re injured or not injured with your fight. They just see the winner.’”
Do you believe the recent drop of injury percentage in AKA will change the perception of the gym as an injury dispenser?