UFC addresses the death of Michigan fighter

Thursday, April 11, 2013

There have been eight death in MMA since it’s inception in 1993. The number is ghastly, but has to be put into the context of the general dangers of sports competition. Boxing for example has recorded nearly 1,500 deaths in its history; between 1982 and the spring of 2007, 42 people were killed cheerleading.

Because sports are inherently dangerous, safety standards must be put into place. In the case of mixed martial arts, the sport is widely regulated by state, provincial, tribal and municpal government agencies. However, there are holes in the safety net, no where so massive as in amateur MMA in Michigan, where the sport is legal, but entirely unsanctioned.

Safety is left entirely in the hands of small-time, for-profit promoters. Pre-fight screenings are minimal or non-existent. There are no tests for AIDS or Hepatitis. There is no oversight of matchmaking. There are no suspension following KOs or injury. Fighters under 18 can compete. Fighters over 35 receive no extra screening. No ringside physician is required, or even an ambulance.

Michigan is so bad that the Association of Boxing Commissions last year took the unprecedented step of asking the member commissions to bar amateur Michigan fighters, or those who have recently competed in Michigan.

Last week, Felix Elochukwu Nchikwo, a 35-year-old Nigerian living in Hamilton, Ontario, on a student visa died following his participation in an unregulated amateur MMA bout in Michigan.

The has UFC addressed death of Nchikwo with condolences, and calls for increased regulation.

Mike Chiappetta from MMA Fighting has the report.

On Wednesday, at The Met in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the UFC held a press conference to officially announce UFC 161.

The UFC had nothing to do with the fatal fight, which was held an American Legion Post in Lake Huron, Michigan, seemingly a million miles away from the UFC’s bright lights. Yet, it is fair to say that there is common strand that weaves it way through the sport at every level. For better or for worse, those humble beginnings are where many stars first shine.

Instead of UFC president Dana White, who usually presides over press conferences, Tom Wright, the UFC’s director of operations for Canada, Australia and New Zealand, stood at the podium.

“What we don’t know is whether or not there were any pre-existing medical conditions that Pablo was suffering from, and in a regulated environment, we would have known that,” said Wright. “We also don’t know if the referees were properly trained. We don’t know whether or not there were the appropriate EMTs and ambulances and medical precautions in place. We don’t even know if it was a fair fight as far as if the competitors were evenly balanced.

“Those are kinds of things we would know if the sport had been regulated, if the event had been regulated. It speaks to the importance of regulation in our sport, why it’s important that we have the appropriate kind of rigor and standards, from medical care to pre- and post-fight medical testing to drug testing to insuring the health and safety of these athletes is always first and foremost. And in the case of an unregulated event, you don’t know whether those things are in place, which is why we as an organization have always run to regulation.”

“It’s important that we protect the health and safety of our athletes. It’s important that that our sport is properly regulated, and if anything, what the tragic events of last Friday underscore is the importance of that regulation.”

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