In sports, injuries are sometimes rougher than a loss, and the more serious injuries can sideline an athlete for years or end their careers entirely. Knee injuries are among the worst injuries an athlete can suffer, as an ACL tear or an LCL tear can change the athlete’s movement abilities forever.
Usually for most mainstream sports, although getting injured sucks, at the very least they can afford to treat it and rehabilitate it, unlike millions of other Americans. Unfortunately, for many combat sports athletes, the pay often isn’t high enough for that. Sadly, Miriam Nakamoto, a world champion kickboxer, joined those millions of Americans who couldn’t afford the healthcare they needed.
Fortunately for her though, she’s been friends with UFC commentator and longtime MMA personality Joe Rogan for years, and he recently invited her onto his popular podcast. There, she talked about her injuries and struggles and Rogan mentioned how stem cells can help her recover but that such a procedure was very expensive. A few months later, Rogan surprised her and said he’d pay for the entire procedure.
Fighters in need
Nakamoto’s case is just one example of how many combat sports athletes struggle to make a living with the sport. Fighters in the larger organizations like the UFC or One FC have it better than most, as those organizations will usually cover the medical expenses of their fighters.
For fighters in smaller or more regional organizations like what Miriam competed in (her last fight was for Invicta FC, a women’s feeder league to the UFC), finances are far less stable.
Indeed, for Nakamoto, things got so bad that in 2016, she was homeless for a week. This, unfortunately, is not uncommon as the UFC’s former women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg was also homeless for a time, even when she was still active.
Ray Borg, a title contender for the UFC’s flyweight division, also ran into a lot of issues regarding his son’s health and the bills that were necessary to deal with those issues. The UFC doesn’t pay for medical expenses that aren’t fight related, so Borg had to cover his son’s expenses himself.
A good sport
However, because Borg couldn’t get a fight, he couldn’t get paid, So he struggled to afford the healthcare that his son needed. Fortunately for him though, MMA personalities like Brendan Schaub paid the tab for it and Borg’s son is healthy as a result of the treatment he’s received. It’s stories like these that show how financially volatile the sport can be and how critical adequate healthcare is to both athletes and regular Americans who are just trying to make a living.
This particular act of kindness by Joe Rogan is an unfortunately necessary act too, as without the surgery Nakamoto wouldn’t have been able to compete competitively again.
Rogan’s always been a strong advocate for MMA and the UFC, so this just shines a light on how much better the UFC and other large organizations are compared to the smaller ones. For many less fortunate fighters though, not getting into a big organization can mean fighting just to put food on the table or to pay their rent.
Miriam Nakamoto’s future
After 6 years of battling injuries, Nakamoto’s looking to get back on track and compete at the highest level of combat sports that she’s been doing for so long.
According to her interview with ESPN, she’s thinking of signing with One FC because One FC offers fights for many different combat disciplines. Nakamoto was a world champion kickboxer and she’d get to show those skills at One FC. But at the same time, she can also fight in MMA and at One FC at the same time.
Whom she fights next will depend on which discipline she decides to fight in, but if her knee surgery goes well, then women in the bantamweight division should beware because Miriam Nakamoto’s just getting started.