Fatalities in MMA: 1993 - present

by Kirik Jenness |

Rest in peace Douglas Dedge, Lee, Sam Vasquez, Michael Kirkham, Mike Mittelmeier, Dustin Jenson, Tyrone Mims, Felix Elochukwu Nchikwo.

Playing sports can be dangerous.

Seven athletes have died from injuries sustained while competing in the Olympics - one runner, one cyclist, a boxer, one speed skater, one downhill skier, and two lugers.

Boxing has recorded nearly 1,500 deaths since it's inception in the 1700s.

Auto racing has killed countess drivers, and spectators are not immune. A single accident in 1955 killed approximately 60 spectators, and the driver.

28 people are beiieved to have died running, in marathons alone, in the USA alone, just from 2000-2009.

In 2005, four runners died, in a single event, the Great North Run half marathon in the UK.

Cheerleading killed 42 between the fall of 1982 and the spring of 2007.

Mixed martial arts is not immune. Below is a list of the eight people believed to have died from injuries sustained during MMA competitions from 1993 to the present.

Douglas Dedge • March 16, 1998 • Kiev, Ukraine •  Unregulated • Chief emergency room doctor attributed death to "severe brain injuries." • First MMA death in the modern era. • Dedge is reported to have passed out in training previous to the fight, and is believed to have had a preexisting medical condition.

Korean identified only as Lee • May 12, 2005 • Samsong-dong, South Korea • Entirely unregulated bout took place in a bar. • Cause of death was heart attack.

Sam Vasquez • October 20, 2007 • Houston Texas • Cause of death was subdural hemorrhage due to blunt trauma of the head, following a KO loss in the third round • First death in a sanctioned MMA event.

Michael Kirkham • June 26, 2010 • Aiken, South Carolina • Regulated bout • Cause of death was subarachnoid hemorrhage of the brain • Kirkham lost his previous fight on April 24 by TKO; Dr. Joe Estwanik believes "this could have been second-impact syndrome."

Mike Mittelmeier • April 27, 2012 • Bolivia •  Unregulated bout allowing face kicks to grounded opponent; there was no ambulnace standing by. • Mittlemeier got kicked in the head while attempting a leg lock. • Cause of death was cerebral hemorrhage.

Dustin Jenson • May 24, 2012 • Rapid City, South Dakota • Unregulated bout • Jenson tapped without appearing to take any severe blows. • Caue of death was subdural hemorrhage resulting from blunt force trauma to the head.

Tyrone Mims •  August 11, 2012 •  Mount Pleasant, South Carolina • Regulated bout • Autopsy results were inconclusive, with no evidence of a concussion or brain trauma detected, no drugs or alcohol detected by toxicology tests.  "(Mims) might have had an irregular heart because of some electrical dysfunction," said Coroner Rae Wooten. "That obviously isn't seen after death. Once that's completed, there's no evidence of that.... There's just nothing here that explains his death."

Felix Elochukwu Nchikwo, fought under the name Felix Pablo Elochukwu • April 7th, 2013 • Port Huron, Michigan • Unregulated bout • According to the Michigan coroner's office, there is "no evidence" that the fighter died from trauma he sustained during an unregulated mixed martial arts match. Full report is due in several weeks.

There are going to be more deaths in mixed martial arts.

MMA competition can, like countless other sports, lead to fatality. As such, safety precautions must be adhered to rigorously. Promoters cannot be counted on to take standard precautions like blood tests, pre-fight physicals, a ringside doctor, and ambulance standing by. Fighters and trainers in the USA and Canada have a responsibility to avoid unregulated MMA bouts, and States must make regulation or sanctioning mandatory, most notably for amateur fighters, who are easily exploited.

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Recent Comments »

MMA4Hugs site profile image  

4/10/13 6:59 PM by MMA4Hugs

It's not very informative to have all these unadjusted numbers floating around. Forty-two deaths in cheerleading since 1982... but this presumably includes practice as well as competition. Have any amateur MMA fighters keeled over during training that we don't know about? There were doubtless far more cheerleaders than mixed martial artists three decades ago, but now the ratio has probably changed a lot. Raw numbers don't mean much at all. I'd like to see a comparison of deaths-per-minute-of-ring-time, counting only actual fights, between MMA and boxing. Has that been done somewhere?  

Sajite site profile image  

4/10/13 6:35 PM by Sajite

^ ThisI'd like to say too that i really think what will make the sport safer is not only sport regulation but "educated" fans (I don't like the word but i cant come across with a different one).

caposa site profile image  

4/10/13 6:17 PM by caposa

Who cares which sport has had more documented deaths? If Boxing had 20 deaths last year and MMA only had 4 this year, does that make either sport any less dangerous? MMA is a violent combat sport. No death statistics or numbers will ever change that. It needs to be properly regulated at the amateur level and the people running these illegal shows need to be penalized in some way.

Global Shield site profile image  

4/10/13 6:03 PM by Global Shield

Badminton has more deaths.

stonepony site profile image  

4/10/13 3:52 PM by stonepony

Sure, but what it doesn't show us is how dangerous MMA is compared to something like boxing. I see a couple instances on that list where better regulation would have saved the fighter. The soccer kick death, and the guy who got knocked out in February and died fighting in April. He shouldn't have been allowed to fight again so quickly.This kind of information is something a politician in NYC might use to argue that MMA is too dangerous. So it's important to put the numbers in context. Have less people died in boxing over the same period of time?There have been something like 2,000 recorded boxing deaths (obviously boxing has been around a long time though). That is still a high number when you don't look at it in context.Boxing is much more dangerous than MMA. But, boxing is still safer than simply working a manual labor job. A farmer is much more likely to die, than a boxer. A construction worker, is far more likely to die. etc. A cab driver is much much more likely to die than a boxer.

Sajite site profile image  

4/10/13 3:31 PM by Sajite

This clearly shows that amateur MMA needs stronger regulation

Heel Hooker site profile image  

4/10/13 3:28 PM by Heel Hooker

Expect more as the sport grows and people clamour to allow medically fragile people (like those with Down's Syndrome) to fight.

MMA Playwrite site profile image  

4/10/13 1:37 PM by MMA Playwrite

Four since April of 2012? I didn't realize that.

quality site profile image  

4/10/13 1:36 PM by quality

This is a very good article and helps put things in perspective for people that think MMA is barbaric. It basically shows that you can die doing just about anything and it doesn't even have to involve direct blows to the head.

Bofbro site profile image  

4/10/13 1:05 PM by Bofbro

RIP guys.