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Queensland entrepreneur gets UFC's blood pumping with restriction cuff

October 20, 2021

It’s the home of mega-athletes Conor McGregor, Amanda Nunes and Australia’s own Robert Whittaker, and now the UFC has teamed up with a fitness product originally designed on the Gold Coast by a Bond University student.

Joseph Marcus devised his blood flow restriction cuffs while completing a thesis research project, as part of his Doctor of Physiotherapy degree in 2014.

The cuffs work by using pressure to restrict blood flow to the heart, while ensuring sufficient arterial blood reaches the limbs. The restricted flow of blood returning to the heart sets off a chain reaction of events in the body, leading to an increase in growth hormone and testosterone, and a decrease in myostatin, a protein that restricts muscle growth.

After initially launching the product himself, Mr Marcus sold his company to Brisbane-based Vald Performance, which has now launched BFR Cuffs as the flagship product of its SAGA Fitness brand.

Mr Marcus said the deal with UFC was formalised after SAGA’s BFR Cuffs were used by strength and conditioning coaches at the UFC Performance Institute in Shanghai. Under the terms of the partnership, BFR Cuffs will now also be used at UFC’s other performance institute, in Las Vegas, as well as being distributed globally to athletes.

The UFC performance institutes are designed to help athletes train and rehabilitate after fights, and Mr Marcus said the BFR Cuffs were a critical tool to help with this.

 “It’s about having the ability to expedite the training needed around injuries, and also to reduce the amount of training intensity they need to get results.”

He was thrilled at the success of his product.

“It’s quite rewarding to be able to develop a product that ends up being used at the highest level of sports performance.

“I always envisioned the need for blood flow restriction training and a device which allowed for widespread adoption. In many ways I could see it being popular, but being used by Olympic athletes and professional UFC fighters, it’s pretty cool,” Mr Marcus said.

UFC vice-president of performance Duncan French said the organisation was excited to pair up with SAGA Fitness.

“SAGA’s innovation has given us the ability to not only use the cuffs to treat and train athletes at our Las Vegas and Shanghai facilities, but thanks to the tech’s simplicity, we can also distribute them to athletes for remote use worldwide.”

Mr Marcus said the BFR Cuffs has been used as part of Olympic preparations by Australia’s surf squad.