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Death By MMA

By Danielle DeVor

It is understood that the sport of MMA is dangerous. From the time of its inception, there have been critics expressing fear about injuries and deaths resulting in the cage. While no one wants to see a death happen, they do occur.

Here is our list of deaths that have occurred in sanctioned fights in the cage.


When Charlie Ward knocked him out in the third round, no one expected what looked like a normal TKO to result in death. Carvalho was cleared by medics, and then backstage began to vomit. They rushed him to the hospital, where he ultimately underwent brain surgery and was later declared dead.

Sam Vasquez

Known as the first MMA fighter to die on North American soil in a sanctioned match, his death sent shockwaves through the country. The blunt force trauma to his head was too much. Speculation that him hitting his head on one of the ring posts being the main cause of the injury earlier in the fight has been brought up a few times. He was in a coma for six weeks before finally passing away.

Tyrone Mimms

At 30 years of age, his death still remains a mystery. He fought in his first amateur fight and became unresponsive. The unusual part about his death is that no one knows exactly how he died. He had passed all pre-fight physicals. When an autopsy was performed, they could find no evidence of any concussions or injuries that could be the cause of death. But, the medical examiner could find nothing. The officials listed his cause of death as “mystery”.

Booto Guylain

During the third round of his fight against Keron Davies, Guylain received an elbow to the head that immediately rendered him unconscious. After being stabilized in the ring, he was rushed to the hospital where he was treated for “swelling and bleeding on the brain”. He died a week later.


Kirkham had just finished being knocked out in his last amateur fight with blows to the back of his head. The commission put him on a thirty-day suspension. Unfortunately, Kirkham had not received any medical attention after his previous fight and assumed that he was ok. Well, he wasn’t. His last fight was stopped after 40 seconds. Kirkham lost consciousness and died two days later. He suffered from what is called “second-impact syndrome” which is where when two hard blows to the head — even if they happen weeks apart — can combine together which completely “overwhelms” the body. This results in massive swelling of the brain and has a fifty-fifty chance of death.  


He complained of chest pains after his previous fight against Ricky Muse, but they were never followed up on. So, when he fought and lost in July of 2017, then collapsed backstage, and died, the fault was ruled as the fighter’s own because the ring doctor was unaware of the fact that White suffered from a hypertensive heart disease and hadn’t been taking his blood pressure medication. His death was officially noted to have been caused by a “cardiac event”.


Clark was facing Ryan Dunn at an event on August 12, 2017. The fight was stopped roughly two minutes into the third round when Clark looked as if he were too fatigued to intelligently defend himself. The bout was ruled a TKO victory for Dunn. Clark stated he had trouble breathing and after a post-fight medical examination, he was carried out on a stretcher and taken to the hospital. After he was then transferred to a different hospital, he died on August 15, 2017. While he took very little damage in his fight, his kidneys began to fail at the hospital. It was later discovered that the kidney failure was due to severe dehydration. The autopsy concluded he died from extreme rhabdomyolysis, which consists of the rapid break down of muscle tissue caused by physical overexertion combined with dehydration.


Mateus Fernandes died hours after competing in an amateur match. He won the first two rounds against Obed Pereira, but Pereira used a combination of punches and Fernandes dropped to the canvas. The referee then halted the contest. Fernandes had several seizures and was transported to the hospital for treatment. While there, he suffered four heart attacks, dying at 11:45 p.m. local time. It has been alleged that after undergoing pre-fight exams, the fighter spent the night before the fight taking drugs.

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