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Can Tito’s spine survive fighting in the UFC?

While there’s still debate on whether Tito knew he needed neck surgery to fuse more vertebrae together when he agreed to coach on TUF, there’s no argument as to the seriousness of the injury: it’s really bad. Coming back from one major spine surgery is already a big deal. Coming back from two is just crazy. I have no idea how he expects to be able to hang with the best in the UFC’s light heavyweight division considering how medically mangle he is, but that’s his plan:

“Just got the green light from my dr today,” read one post. “He was very happy with the progress,” while another said, “good to go!!! Oct or nov.”

Of course, MMA fighters are famous for underestimating the amount of time it takes to recover from shit like this, and Tito has a history of being as accurate as Baghdad Bob when it comes to news of his health. Meanwhile, Dana says he isn’t about to make the call on whether a dude with a frankenspine can still fight in the UFC, deferring that decision to doctors that will clear Tito to fight. Speaking of doctors, here’s Dr Johnny Benjamin’s response to a reader’s question about the safety of Tito competing:

What is the football equivalent of a Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic head kick or someone hanging his full body weight on a fighter’s fused neck with a standing guillotine? No one knows.

What we do know is that Ortiz’s driver’s license probably says that he’s 35 years old, his physiologic age is probably significantly older than that, he’s undergone multiple surgeries (including neck and back fusion), he’s past his prime years (and has gone 0-3-1 in his past four fights and hasn’t won since 2006), and has a ground-and-pound brawling style. None of which is favorable.

Single-level fusions have worked out reasonably well to date for a handful of football players, but will that good fortune hold true for elite MMA athletes? If it does, great! But if it doesn’t, someone is likely to be permanently paralyzed.

And it won’t be you, me, UFC president Dana White, the athletic commission or the surgeons who ultimately clear him.

Is it worth the risk? It looks like we may all find out.

Well that’s reassuring…