American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) is known for being one of the greatest fight teams in MMA history, despite the fact that a lot of their fighters have pulled out of bouts due to injuries suffered mostly during training camps.
Javier Mendez is the head coach at AKA and he claims that changes the team has made has led to a 50% drop in fighter injuries.
“It is the nature of the sport,” 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. Well little simple things, from having the guys talk to me when they don’t want to spar. 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.’ Let me tell you something. Our injury rate has dropped almost over 50 percent.”
Bloody Elbow states that from 2009 to 2016, a total of 26 fighters representing AKA had pulled out of fights in the UFC.
Mendez even tries to persuade injured fighters to pull out of upcoming bouts, a scenario that came up recently with Gabriel Benitez.
“[Gabriel Benitez], he 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.”