It’s not the most comfortable thing to contemplate when you’ve got a fight coming up, but Matt Mitrione had a personal connection to Tim Hague, the fighter who died due to injuries sustained in a boxing match this past weekend in Edmonton. Hague slipped into a coma not long after being knocked out by Adam Braidwood, and died on Sunday. Mitrione fought Hague at UFC Fight For the Troops II in Fort Hood, Texas, back in 2011.
The two had kept up over the years, and Mitrione said the news of his death really got to him — particularly as he was making final preparations for his own fight.
“I’m really upset by that man,” Mitrione said during an in-house appearance on The MMA Hour.
Mitrione fights Saturday night against Fedor Emelianenko at Bellator 180: Silva vs. Sonnen. The bout takes place at the famed Madison Square Garden, where some of boxing’s greatest have competed over the years. Yet just a little inside a week before he and Emelianenko will have a latch closed behind them to fight it out, Mitrione — like so many others — was left to contemplate the reality of the thing he is doing.
He said fighting after something like that happens is a sobering reminder of the risk fighters take every time they enter the ring. Or in his case, a cage.
“It’s hard,” he told Ariel Helwani. “It’s a very difficult thing. Like maybe if I didn’t fight him I’d be like, this sucks. But now that I fought him and knew him? And for it to happen around Father’s Day? There’s a lot that sucks about it. But how do you fight? It’s my job man. I could be cleaning windows on a building [and something could happen], god knows.”
Mitrione said he found out about Hague’s condition and he tried to make a gesture to the family.
“I had a lot on my mind that day,” he said. “I texted his number afterwards, and I’ll tell you what I said because it really threw me off.
“I wrote, ‘hey, this is Matt Mitrione. I know writing Tim now is in bad taste. I really don’t know what to say, do or who to contact. I’m really sorry about how things turned out. Please tell me what I can do. I have a fight this weekend and everything’s been thrown off. What about Tim’s son? I don’t know if Tim has universal life insurance as well. Please, if anybody reads this, let me know how I can help.’”
“And the person wrote back, ‘hey, it’s not Tim’s number man, I hope you find it. And they said, ‘how’s Tim doing?’ And I wrote, ‘he died.’”
Hague’s death has spawned a lot of mournful thoughts throughout the MMA community. He competed 34 times in professional MMA bouts (going 21-13), and fought five times under the UFC banner. In his UFC debut, Hague upset Pat Barry by choking him out at UFC 98 in 2009.
Mitrione said he and Hague had always “been cool” since they squared off in 2011 (a fight Mitrione won via first-round TKO), and that the fight game had lost one of the good ones. He was a fourth-grade school teacher in Alberta, and was fighting to earn extra money.
“It sucks man,” he said. “And I heard about a post he made on Facebook where he said he just wanted to get some money so he can have a great Father’s Day with his kid. It sucks man. There’s no easy way to sugar coat it. It’s a horrible situation. I know how proud he was of his son. I know how proud he was to be a father. He was a really good dude. And I mean, it just sucks.”
One thing that Mitrione made clear was that there needs to be security in place in the event tragedy strikes.
“This should be a massive call for unionization,” he said. “Like, hey look, what’s going to happen with Tim? What’s going to happen with his son?”
Hague’s family has set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for his funeral expenses — which has already raised a little over $20,000.
That’s something that Mitrone said shouldn’t have to be the case.
“I freely make the comment that we deserve to get paid as well as we command or should get paid, because we take the chance of never leaving that cage the same ever again, every time we walk in there,” he said. “And this is exactly the scenario I’m talking about. Whether you, god forbid, die from a situation like this, or lose use of something because of an impact or an injury or whatever the situation is, we deserve to have financial security for something like that.
“We deserve that if you ever fought in the UFC and something like this happens that there needs to be some kind of life insurance put into it.”