Swedish MMA Federation facing internal review

Alexander Gustafsson was pulled from Saturday's main event due to a cut he suffered in training. (AP/Gregory Payan)

By Gareth A Davies in Stockholm

The Daily Telegraph

Medical procedures at the Swedish MMA Federation will be reviewed in the wake of its committee’s insistence on withdrawing headliner Alex Gustafsson with a cut eye three days earlier than normal practice.

As the saying goes: “Common Sense Ain’t Common.” And it certainly wasn’t applied here. Dana White, the UFC president, branded the decision-making process a “horrible job” as the Swedish Federation found itself hung out to dry by its own medical panel refusing to budge.

The move could have potentially ended up in a law suit had Zuffa, the parent company which runs the Ultimate Fighting Championship, chosen to cancel the event.

The Swedish MMA federation’s medical committee had chosen at midnight last Tuesday to inform Gustafsson – a light heavyweight title contender in the mixed martial arts organization and a sports star in Sweden – that he was ineligible to fight because of concerns about a gash in his left eyelid, sustained in training a week earlier, which had required four stitches.

Normal practice would have been to wait until the medical checks three days later, after the weigh-ins, on the Friday.

Yet what exacerbated the situation was that by Wednesday last week, Gustafsson had had the four stitches removed, the cut had closed up, and he was ready to fight.

Gustafsson himself, keen to fight against former Strikeforce 205lbs champion Gegard Mousasi, branded the process “a circus.”

In fairness, his team cannot be blameless in the process, having “declared” the injury to the Swedish MMA federation.

Imagine if the UFC had taken the decision to pull the plug on the event due to fans returning tickets and wanting their money back?

I understand that there were less than 50 demands at the door of the promoter, at what transpired to be a highly-successful event, but the UFC could have withdrawn the event and potentially, Zuffa and the Swedish MMA Federation could have ended up on different sides of a fence in a legal case.

It certainly appears that there was an intransigence from the federation’s medical commission, which I’ve been told is made up of “a panel of around seven persons.”

George Sallfeldt, president of the Swedish MMA federation, told Telegraph Sport after the event: “We will be looking into the situation that happened, and the way it happened. We’ll be asking the medical committee how they arrived at their decision [on the Tuesday night] and why it was made when it was.”

But he added: “It someone contacts the federation it is difficult to do anything different to what happened. But I have to say that this situation has never happened before.”

Sallfeldt had consistently defended his panel’s decision last week, falling back on an insistence that combat sports in Sweden are governed by law, and that he was powerless to overrule it.

But what this situation has highlighted is that there are disparities across the globe in the way in which commissions are run, and how they communicate internally. Clearly, the fighter should have been given every opportunity to ready himself to fight.

White told me: “I don’t want to come out and bash these guys, but they did a horrible job of this. We know Sweden has great fans, and we really like this market, but it really wasn’t good what happened.”

Gustafsson himself feels that his destiny shifted due to seven immoveable medics.

The maelstrom caused by Gustafsson’s forced removal from the UFC event in Stockholm will not be forgotten in a hurry, but the event at the Eriksson Globe, which had a little sprinkling of everything: two fighters battling through injuries, local heroes coming good, stylistic match-ups delivering, and a touch of stardust with a new fighter making the statement he had promised.

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