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MMA Fatalities: Have Any UFC Fighters Died in the Cage?

No Casualties in the World’s Largest MMA Promotion But…

Mixed martial arts is one of the most violent sports. There is no sugarcoating it. This is a sport where athletes kick, punch, and slam each other all over the ring or octagon. There are also chokeholds that literally put fighters to sleep. All of these are potentially fatal, so it’s fortunate that no UFC fighters have died while fighting. Outside the UFC is another story.

Fighters Who Died While Fighting (In Sanctioned Fights)

While there are no UFC fighters that died, seven others died outside of the promotion as a direct result of fighting in a sanctioned MMA fight. None took place in the UFC. Sam Vasquez, who fought in the Renegades Extreme Fighting, had the misfortune of being the first reported casualty due to an MMA fight.

The 35-year-old was knocked unconscious from a punch and then proceeded to have a seizure. He was taken to the hospital, where he eventually died after slipping into a 48-hour coma just over a month after his bout.

Other fighters who died fighting include:

  • Michael Kirkham – Dash Entertainment/King MMA (June 26, 2010)
  • Tyrone Mims – Conflict MMA Fight Night (August 11, 2012)
  • Booto Guylain – EFC AFRICA 27 (February 27, 2014)
  • Donshay White – Hardrock MMA 90 (July 16, 2017)
  • Rondel Clark – Cage Titans XXXV (August 12, 2017)
  • Mateus Fernandes – Remulus Fight (March 30, 2019)

Fighters Who Died in Unsanctioned Fights

Nine other fighters perished while competing in unsanctioned MMA fights. Of them, Joao Carvalho had the most recent and high-profile death. The Portuguese fighter died 48 hours after fighting Charlie Ward in Dublin, Ireland. Ward is notable as being a former UFC fighter and compatriot of Conor McGregor. He fought in a pair of UFC events.

Alfredo Castro Herrera is likely the first fighter to die from a “mixed martial arts” contest in Tijuana, Mexico, on April 14, 1981. This was over a dozen years before the first UFC event. He fought in a “boxing match mixed with karate and judo” as described on the April 15, 1981 issue of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

UFC Fighters Involved in Scary Incidents

Of course, the UFC has had its fair share of events where it appeared like a fighter had died. Several of these are via knockouts that are frequently featured on highlight reels. The most notable are the ones from Edson Barboza and Uriah Hall.

Barboza is still on the list of current UFC fighters and was, at his prime, a top-five contender in the 155-pound division. He gained notoriety in 2012. Four fights into the UFC, he knocked out Terry Etim with a spinning wheel kick that left the Englishman frozen stiff. Etim recovered and returned to the octagon a year later in a bout he lost. He was promptly cut from the UFC after.

Hall also had a scary knockout that left everyone, including Hall, visibly shaken from the result. The Jamaican-American hit Adam Cella with a spinning hook kick during season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter in 2013. Cella hit the canvas with a loud “thud” and was motionless for several minutes. At this moment, it appeared a UFC fighter died.

Fortunately, Cella recovered and competed in the UFC several months later.

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