LFA cutman describes saving another life at LFA 26

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Clovis ‘C.J.’ Hancock fought as high as 205 as an amateur, and dropped 45 pounds to make 170.5 vs. Charlie Ontiveros at LFA 26 on November 3. Due to the extreme weight-loss, Hancock died in the cage; mercifully, alert LFA cutman David Maldonado recognized that something was amiss and responded.

Hancock had no pulse, his color was changing, and his breathing pattern was disintegrating. The cutman pulled Hancock’s head off the cage, as a nurse came out of the crowd and intubated the fighter. EMTs tried a defibrillator to restart his heart. The fighter began to show signs of life as he was moved to the ambulance; Maldonado estimates Hancock was dead for five minutes, with kidney failure and cardiac arrest.

“While they were trying to get him in the ambulance and that sort of thing, there was a great moment where he did sit up, eyes open,” said Maldonado to Marc Raimondi for MMA Fighting. “And almost in kind of a more legitimate gasping sort of way, he came up. That was obviously an incredible sign that there was something more of a response, kind of like a fighter waking up.”

“I pretty much broke down in the middle of a parking garage, kind of realizing all that had taken place, all that was on the line, thinking back on the athlete from before. I was kind of a wreck the rest of the night.”

Maldonado hopes to speak with the Texas Combative Sports and Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) about what happened, and potential areas of improvement.

“There were numerous factors in the response to the situation in the cage that did not demonstrate great preparation and likely would warrant future discussions and modifications in a formal protocol,” he said.

TDLR spokesperson Susan Stanford told Raimondi in a written response that the commission remains vigilant, “maintains an on-going review of its safety procedures.”

“TDLR staff and attending ringside physicians followed all match up, pre-fight, in-fight and post-fight safety procedures during Mr. Hancock’s in-ring emergency,” she said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with CJ and his family for his continued recovery.”

The fighter is expected to recover fully, although his career in the cage is another matter.

The bad news is the culture of extreme weight cutting in mixed martial arts killed another person. Good news is he recovered.

The purpose of weight divisions is for safety and fairness, but it is one of the most dangerous aspects of the sport. In no other sport are the athletes expected to reduce themselves to a dangerously debilitated state just a day before the most intense physical exertion imaginable.

It’s bad for the promoters and the fans – they get a less conditioned fighter. It’s terribly bad for the fighter – it has caused long-term health issues for a large number of athletes, and is linked to at least two deaths. And cutting solves nothing – both fighters cut and end up putting on weight.

Andy Foster, executive director of the California State Athletic Commission has put together a 10 Point Plan to fix the issue. It works. The ABC medical committee supports it. The ABC has adopted it. The UFC supports it and will continue to adopt further parts of it.

It is now incumbent on commissions to implement it.