Dana White of the UFC is creating a slap fight league. Doctors have concerns.


A promotional video begins with scenes of roaming lights and the fighters confronting, then moves on to howls, slaps in the chest and slow motion across still faces. The video, which was released late last month, is nothing new. But it was shown ahead of Friday’s press conference during which Ultimate Fighting Championship boss Dana White shared early details about the recently announced slap fighting league, called Power Slap.

“It all started for me in 2017,” White said at Radio City Music Hall in New York. “I started watching some of these videos on social media… and the numbers blew me away. Some of these have close to 300 million views, so I started thinking. Obviously this thing really works for social media, but I thought it would be good for TV. If done the right way.”

White said the league, which will be organized by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) and scheduled to launch early next year with an eight-episode series that will be broadcast nationwide on TBS, will include “extensive rules, ratings, and medical testing.” said Hunter Campbell, chief business officer of the UFC. For ESPN previously, his medical requirements and weight classes would be similar to those of mixed martial arts shows.

In a typical slap fight match, two contestants stand facing each other and trade slaps in the face. White sees promise in polishing the sport, which has not been regulated for years, by using weight classes to create more appropriate matches, limiting the number of rounds those matches run, and establishing various requirements and regulations, including fouls, mouthguards and earplugs. Campbell told ESPN that the league will use the 10-point system used to score boxing and mixed martial arts fights.

“After his testing, it became clear to us that there is huge potential here as a sport, not unlike the early years of the UFC,” Campbell said. “It made sense in the world to go towards regulation before the sport started, for all the obvious reasons – #1, the health and safety of competitors.”

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Concerns about the safety of the sport resurfaced after news last month that the NSAC would organize a Power Slap. But White notes that league organizers and athletes have taken these concerns seriously.

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

Despite White’s stated emphasis on safety, medical professionals are skeptical of anyone who suggests they can make anti-slaps safer.

Nitin Agarwal, a neurosurgeon at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, whose research focuses on traumatic brain injury, opposes the suggestion that anti-slaps can be safer.

“When it comes to the physical aspect of martial arts, safety and defense are key. By virtue of 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 you, you can’t use your hands for protection, and you can’t even turn your head to soften the blow or control where the blow is. So that’s very concerning.”

In the promotional video for Power Slap, a quick sequence of slaps is followed by clips of objects bending and falling to the ground – or into the arms of waiting attendees.

Only one of those slaps can be “life-changing,” Agarwal said, adding that “no amount of preparation prevents an actual strike.

“You see these people pass out from one blow. In fact, what is this is that they just had a concussion. They had a traumatic brain injury.” Anyone who comes to the emergency room after a blow like this is being worked on with a full trauma exam, including That’s a comprehensive trauma exam, which includes a full-body CT scan and head scan. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a visible and hidden brain injury. … Therefore, I am very concerned about these participants.”

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