Clinton Magazine Fall 2022 | Page 10

“ I ’ ll be back out there one way or the other . I ’ m not giving it up yet . I just can ’ t .”

- Jeremy Castro , MMA fighter

Jeremy Castro boxing at Iron Horse Fitness Club in Clinton . Photo by Jenna Blount
career . Castro was very well-behaved in his own youth , but the kids that he taught , who ’ d gotten multiple suspensions or expulsions or had behavioral problems or issues with other teachers , respected and connected easily with Castro when they learned he was a fighter .
The Ultimate Fighting Championship , or UFC , is the largest MMA organization in the world . When it began gaining popularity , Castro wanted to find out how he might measure up as a competitor , even though he admits he had no idea what he was doing . In 2006 , he had his first professional fight , which he won . He won the following four fights as well .
“ I had a good background in wrestling when I first started ,” Castro remembers . “ That ’ s all I had , though . I would take them to the ground , try and pound on them .”
MMA is a 29-year-old , full-contact sport that allows various fighting techniques and skills from a mixture of other combat sports , like boxing , Brazilian jiu-jitsu , jiu-jitsu , judo , karate , kickboxing , kung fu , taekwondo , and wrestling .
Mentally and physically , it has a multitude of benefits , but some say it ’ s too violent of a sport . Fighters run the risk of getting concussions , cerebral edemas , spinal cord injuries , and fractures within their hands and feet , to name a few of the most common resulting harms .
MMA organizations do put forth efforts to protect fighters , though , as much as possible in a full-contact sport . Castro started out when it was still very new . No weight classes had yet been introduced . If knocked out , the fighter was allowed to come back the next week .
Now , though it varies state by state , blood tests for Hepatitis B and C and HIV are required . If knocked out , the fighter cannot return to the cage for 60 days . Licensing requirements have been put into place , and weight classes have been utilized since 1997 . In other states , fighters over the age of 40 may even be required to undergo an EKG before allowed to fight . For protective equipment , fighters wear groin cups , mouth guards , and four-ounce gloves .
In recent years , efforts to protect athletes have increased within the NFL , NHL , and MMA organizations , ever since Jordan Parsons became the first professional MMA fighter publicly diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy , or CTE , after he was killed in a hit-and-run accident in Florida in 2016 .
CTE is a degenerative brain disease that athletes may develop 8 to 10 years after repetitive , mildly traumatic brain injury , but at this point it can only be diagnosed post-mortem . Common symptoms include memory loss , trouble thinking or concentrating , behavioral changes , impulse control problems , depression , anxiety , slurred speech , a lack of energy and issues with coordination .
One study conducted in 2018 , reported by the National Library of Medicine , found that mild brain injury occurs in 23.6 percent of MMA fighters and most often during the preparation for a fight rather than during the actual fight itself . Luckily , after putting nearly 70 fights and 16 years under his belt , Castro hasn ’ t experienced any symptoms .
“ I am smart about it ,” he says . “ The minute I start getting headaches or if I have memory loss , trust me , I ’ ll be done .”
While the worst injury Castro says he ever inflicted on an opponent was a broken arm , the worst he ever experienced so far was his eye injury . Retinal detachment is a rare injury to occur , nationally speaking , but serious . The layer of light-sensitive tissue around the back of the eye is pulled away from supporting tissue , which could result in permanent vision loss .
It happened after Castro made the transition from wrestling in the cage to boxing just a couple years ago . He made the
10 Clinton Magazine Fall 2022