MMA is a dangerous sport and injuries of various sorts can happen at any time. However, fatal ones have been rare.
Famous in-ring deaths of boxers include Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini causing the death of boxer Duk Koo Kim in 1982 on live television as well as Emile Griffith causing the death of Benny Paret in 1962. Of course, they didn’t die in the ring but later as a consequence of brain injury.
With the rise of popularity of MMA, the audiences grow larger and the sport is becoming more and more similar to boxing when it comes to respect the participants are receiving.
Barbaric and Brutal Sports?
In the past MMA was considered to be barbaric and brutal, basically like human cockfights. After the sport added rules, regulations and a specific process like any other valued sport, it became prestigious and respected.
Since MMA is a violent and heavy-contact sport, there have to be strict regulations and therefore the fights are now sanctioned overseen by specific commissions and dealt with on a highly professional level.
At the end of the day, this is a sport where two people are trying to knock each other out and the dangers are real. And this proved to be true in some extreme degrees for several people.
No Fatal Incident in the Ring
When it comes to mixed martial arts, less than a dozen men have died as a result of injuries sustained in the cage or ring. And no MMA fighter who died actually lost his life in the ring/octagon on national television. Deaths occurred later, in the locker room, ambulance or the hospital.
However, the reason for some MMA fighter who died did not originate in the ring.
MMA Fighter Who Died
Below is a list of fighters who participated in sanctioned fights and died both as a consequence of in-fight injuries and other causes.
Sam Vasquez died on November 30, 2007, 40 days after his last match in a Renegades Extreme Fighting on October 20, 2007.
After he lost consciousness he was taken to Saint Joseph Medical Center’s Critical Care Unit. He was diagnosed with subdural hemorrhage and he had a piece of his skull bone removed so that the brain has room to swell.
He then had his cerebral spinal fluid drained out to allow more room for the brain to swell after which he fell into a coma and died 48 hours later.
He was the first MMA fighter who died as a consequence of injuries from mixed martial arts in North America.
At the University of South Carolina Aiken campus in Aiken, South Carolina, 30 year old Michael Kirkham competed at the Dash Entertainment/King MMA “Confrontation at the Convocation Center”.
Within the first minute of the match against Carlos Iraburo, he was taken to the floor and had several punches in the head until the referee stopped the fight 41 seconds into the match.
After this, he lost consciousness and was declared dead two days later. The cause was a subarachnoid hemorrhage of the brain.
On August 11, 2012 Tyrone ‘Teestea’ Mims, who was 30 at the time, was competing in an amateur MMA show at Conflict MMA Fight Night at the Point IV in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
In the second round of the match, he started feeling weak and tired and unable to continue.
After the physicians checked on him, he said that he was just tired. After he was helped to the locker room, he lost consciousness and was declared dead.
After autopsy, the reason for his death could not be found.
Another brain related death happened to 29 year old Booto Guylain after a head injury in the match agains Keron Davies at EFC AFRICA 27 in Johannesburg, South Africa that was held on February 27, 2014.
He was stabilized on-site but the MMA fighter who died a week later as result of brain swelling.
At an event called “Hardrock MMA 90” in Louisville Kentucky held on July 16, 2017 37 year old Donshay White lost against Ricky Muse in the second round by TKO.
After the match he went backstage and collapsed. He was taken to an ambulance where he died.
Upon arriving at the Saints Mary and Elizabeth Hospital he had no pulse and was pronounced dead. The cause was hypertensive heart disease ruled after finding out he had high blood pressure for which he did not take medication.
On August 12, 2017 26 year old Rondel Clark entered a bout at an event called “Cage Titans XXXV” at the Plymouth Memorial Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts. He lost his second amateur match to Ryan Dunn after he was declared incapable of continuing because he was showing inability to intelligently defend himself because of severe fatigue.
The match was declared a TKO victory for Dunn.
Clark was carried out on a stretcher following difficulty breathing and a post-fight medical examination. He was transported to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth after which he was transferred to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.
He died on August 15, 2017. The cause was not injuries caused by the fight but severe dehydration and overexertion which lead to his kidneys shutting down. He died from rhabdomyolysis, which is the rapid deterioration of muscle tissue after severe dehydration combined with overexertion.
Mateus Fernandes faced Obed Pereira on March 30, 2019 in bantamweight amateur match held in Manaus, Brazil.
He won the first two rounds but was then dropped by several punches and the referee had to stop the match. After he stated having seizures, he was transported to Raimundo Accident and Emergency for treatment. In the hospital he had 4 heart attacks after which he died.
It was believed that the MMA fighter who died spent the night before taking drugs as he was in the process of getting rid of his drug addiction.