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UFC Deaths: Taking a look into the ugly and violent side of cage fighting

Newer fans of the sport will sometimes wonder if there have been UFC deaths during the promotion’s history. It is a fair question considering how violent and brutal cage fighting can be.

Unfortunately — just like its sister combat sport boxing — MMA has seen quite a few fight-related deaths during its 29 years of existence. However, has the MMA world leader ever had the unfortunate situation of an athlete passing away while inside the fabled Octagon?

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We dive into that question for the UFC and the sport of MMA overall.

Has anyone died in the UFC?

ufc deaths
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Luckily for the MMA world leader, there have not been any deaths in the Octagon. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been many severe injuries incurred during UFC fights. In 2021 alone, there were two nasty instances where former UFC champions Chris Weidman and Conor McGregor both broke their legs in gruesome fashion during matchups.

There are also countless muscle and ligament injuries that come during fights, and numerous fractures to competitors’ faces that are reported on post-fight medical evaluations. Furthermore, there are the inherent dangers of brain trauma, which is a sad but common job hazard for all athletes in combat sports.

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However, with being the richest and most prosperous MMA promotion in history, the UFC does work closely with state athletic commissions to make the conditions for fights as safe as possible, and the medical screenings before and after bouts as thorough as can be to keep their athletes healthy and active.

Having been lucky enough to avoid in-fight deaths is a major reason why the UFC has been able to become a globally recognized brand and one of the fastest-rising sports entities in the world. A tragic death in the Octagon at certain points in the organization’s rise surely would have undercut its growth in a major way.

If not in the UFC, have there actually been MMA deaths?

ufc deaths
Credit: USA Today Network

Sadly, there have been quite a few MMA deaths outside of the UFC. And not just in the US, but in MMA promotions all around the world.

One of the earliest reported instances came in 2007 when Renegades Extreme fighter Sammy Vasquez fell into a coma and died from complications of blunt head trauma and a brain hemorrhage following a knockout loss in October of that year.

Seven years later, the Democratic Republic of the Congo native Guylain died soon after a technical knockout loss to Keron Davies at an Extreme Fighting Championship event in South Africa. He had swelling and bleeding in his brain and was unable to get proper medical attention immediately after the bout.

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In 2019, Brazilian amateur talent Mateus Fernandes died after suffering seizures in the cage, and allegedly four heart attacks at the hospital after a KO loss at a Remulus Fight card in Manaus. He was only 22 years old.

There have been at least seven fighters killed in the ring or cage during MMA events since 2019. And another nine more have reportedly died at unsanctioned cage fighting cards at the same time.

Weight cuts can also be quite perilous for MMA fighters

There have also been several fatal or near-death experiences suffered by MMA athletes during weight cuts to make their division weight limits. One of the most infamous came in 2015 when ONE Championship fighter Yang Jian Bing died following a difficult weight cut.

The tragic moment led the promotion to institute hydration protocols that limited the amount of water weight a fighter could sweat off before a pre-fight weigh-in.

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