Felix Pablo Elochukwu, a 35-year-old who was competing in mixed martial arts for the first time last Saturday night in a Port Huron, Michigan amateur show, died after collapsing following the fight's conclusion.
According to various reports, Elochukwu lost the fight held at an American Legion Post via third-round TKO, and was standing and alert at the time the final decision was read. Soon afterward, he told a trainer he wasn't feeling well, and according to police, a paramedic on the scene administered help before emergency crews arrived. He later died in an area hospital.
An autopsy was performed on Sunday but did not determine a cause of death.
Elochukwu was a native of Nigeria who was living in Ontario, Canada, where he trained at Joslin's MMA.
The April 6 event that he competed in was the Amateur Fighting Club.
The organization posted a message on their Facebook page addressing the fatality that read, "Last night's event, April 6th, we lost a member of our MMA family and we would like to take this time to honor him. This is a tragic turn of events. We will keep his family and friends in our prayers and we ask you to do the same. May God be with them in this devastating time of loss. To us, this tragedy will not end today. He will remain in our hearts and on our minds. Further information will be posted at a later time."
That post has already been superseded by others promoting the next event.
Professional mixed martial arts is sanctioned by Michigan's Unarmed Combat Commission, but amateur MMA remains unregulated in the state. In late 2011, the Association of Boxing Commissions, concerned about health and safety issues related to Michigan's fight scene, took the unprecedented step of asking member commissions to ban Michigan fighters.
The letter read in part:
"Michigan has allowed promoters of events to consistently fail to comply regarding the reporting of results and any suspensions from mixed martial arts contests. In addition, Michigan has a repeated record of allowing mixed martial artists to compete regardless of medical or drug suspensions in place. In conclusion, the ABC sees no other option but to ask its over eighty-seven member commissions to bar any fighter with a Michigan address, a Michigan mixed martial arts identification card, or a recent record showing competition in Michigan. Otherwise, member Commissions may not realize the true record of the competitors, the medical status of the competitors, and the suspension history of the competitors."
Earlier this year, Michigan state Rep. Harvey Santana took up the cause of amateur MMA, trying to shepherd through a bill that would regulate amateur fights and impose stricter safety standards. Santana said he was motivated to push the legislation after personally witnessing an event where he watched a fighter lose badly, then come out to compete again two bouts later after another fighter did not show up.
So far, the Michigan House has failed to vote on any legislation.
"There are fights like this every weekend," Santana told Michigan's MLive on Tuesday. "What are you going to do? Wait for victim No. 2?"
In most states that regulate MMA, fighters that are 35 and older like Elochukwu are subject to extra medical requirements.
Elochukwu is the third fighter to die in unsanctioned amateur MMA fights since the start of 2012.