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Deaths in MMA: 9 Tragic deaths of MMA fighters

LockerRoom Team
08 July 2022

MMA is a dangerous sport, period. It is a matter of life and death whenever someone steps into the cage for fighting. Despite knowing these risks, the fighters put their body on the line to entertain fans and for their own glory.

While there hasn’t been any case of fighters dying in the major promotions like UFC, there have been cases in the lower leagues. In fact, more than nine fighters have died as a result of their outing in sanctioned Mixed Martial Arts contests. There have been numerous such cases in unsanctioned MMA bouts as well.

Has anyone died in MMA | Has anyone died in the UFC?

MMA is considered to be a safer sport when compared to boxing. Despite this comparison, the risk involved in MMA is very high. As mentioned, a fighter has not died in bigger promotions like the UFC but there has been many such unfortunate cases outside the UFC.

As of 2019, seven MMA Fighters have died in the cage or in the ring in sanctioned MMA bouts. Another nine fighters have died in unsanctioned MMA bouts. 

Death, irrespective of whether it is happening to an MMA fighter or not, is tragic. Here is a look at nine cases of MMA fighters dying in sanctioned MMA fights.

Mateus Fernandes

Mateus Fernandes, 22, died hours after an amateur match in Manaus, Brazil. On March 30, 2019, he faced Obed Pereira in a bantamweight fight at Remulus Fight, which was sanctioned by the Amazonas Athletic Commission (CAMMA). After winning the first two rounds, he was knocked out by a combination of punches, and the fight was stopped by the referee.

Fernandes was then said to have seizures and was taken to Raimundo Accident and Emergency for treatment. He died at 11:45 p.m. local time after suffering four heart attacks while in the hospital. Fernandes was a part of a program that used martial arts to help people deal with drug addiction, and it has been claimed that after undergoing exams, the fighter spent the night before the fight taking drugs.

Rondel Clark

Rondel Clark, a 26-year-old native of Sutton, Massachusetts, lost his second amateur match at the Plymouth Memorial Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Clark, fighting at welterweight, entered the fight with a (1-0) amateur record and faced (0-2) amateur Ryan Dunn on August 12, 2017, at "Cage Titans XXXV."

The fight was stopped about two minutes into the third round when Clark appeared too tired to defend himself intelligently, and Dunn was declared the winner via TKO. Clark reportedly had difficulty breathing and was transported to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital- Plymouth on a stretcher following a post-fight medical examination. He was then transferred to Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he died in August.

Rondel reportedly suffered little damage in his losing effort, but his kidneys began to fail in the hospital.

It was later discovered that his kidney failure was caused by severe dehydration, which caused his entire system to shut down. Rondel had the sickle cell trait, which accelerated his decline. He died of extreme rhabdomyolysis, which is the rapid breakdown of muscle tissue caused by physical overexertion combined with dehydration, according to the autopsy.

The Association of Boxing Commissions, which oversees athletic commissions in North America, donated $5,000 to the Rondel Clark Foundation in 2018, which was established to raise awareness about extreme weight cutting and severe dehydration.

Donshay White

Donshay White, 37, of Radcliff, Kentucky, was defeated by Ricky Muse in a sanctioned amateur heavyweight bout on July 16, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky by TKO in the second round at an event titled "Hardrock MMA 90." He had not fought since 2015. He collapsed backstage after the fight and was taken to an ambulance, where he died.

He was pronounced dead at Saints Mary and Elizabeth Hospital at 9:02 p.m. after arriving with no pulse. The cause of death was determined to be hypertensive heart disease. White had high blood pressure but was not taking medication for it, according to the autopsy. Regardless, White passed his physical on the day of the fight.

Booto Guylain

Booto Guylain, 29, a Congolese fighter, suffered a head injury during the third round of his MMA match against Keron Davies on February 27, 2014, at EFC AFRICA 27 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was stabilised on the scene and transported to the hospital. He died a week later, on March 5, 2014, as a result of complications from brain swelling.

Tyrone Mims

Tyrone Mims, 30, was competing in an amateur mixed martial arts match at Conflict MMA Fight Night at the Point IV in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on August 11, 2012. Tyrone became weak and tired in the second round, and the referee called a halt to the fight because he was unable to continue.

Both the referee and the cage-side physician checked on him, and he told them he was fine, just tired. Tyrone passed out shortly after being helped back to the locker room by teammates. At 9:27 p.m., he was pronounced dead at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) hospital after EMS attempted to revive him on the scene.

Michael Kirkham

On June 26, 2010, Michael Kirkham, 30, competed in the Dash Entertainment/King MMA "Confrontation at the Convocation Center" at the University of South Carolina Aiken campus in Aiken, South Carolina.

His opponent, Carlos Iraburo, knocked Kirkham out seconds into his pro debut; Iraburo then landed a few strikes to the head of his grounded opponent, resulting in a 41-second stoppage. Kirkham quickly lost consciousness and never regained it.

He was pronounced dead two days later. According to an autopsy report, the cause of death was "subarachnoid hemorrhage of the brain."

Sam Vasquez

On October 20, 2007, 35-year-old Sam Vasquez collapsed after taking a punch to the chin during a fight. He was taken to the Saint Joseph Medical Center Critical Care Unit after losing consciousness and appearing to have a seizure.

He was diagnosed with a subdural hemorrhage, which required the removal of a section of the skull bone to allow the brain to swell without compressing it. Additional swelling necessitated the placement of a tube to drain cerebral spinal fluid from the cavities in the brain, making room for more swelling and allowing pressure in the brain to be monitored. He went into a coma for 48 hours before dying on November 30.

These are some of the deaths in sanctioned MMA bouts documented on Wikipedia. The list of deaths in unsanctioned MMA bouts is bound to be bigger. Underlining the fact that MMA is a dangerous sport.


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