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Leading neurologist questioned medical standards of TEF 1 prior to Joao Carvalho’s death

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Joao Carvalho (Nobrega Team Facebook)

DUBLIN — Leading Irish neurologist Prof. Daniel Healy called for the postponement of MMA show TEF 1 three months before the event took place on Apr. 9, 2016.

Portuguese MMA fighter Joao Carvalho died two days after TEF 1, following a third-round TKO loss to Charlie Ward. The event took place at The National Stadium in Dublin.

At an inquest at Dublin Coroner’s Court on Thursday, Healy — who is one of the founding members of non-profit medical project Safe MMA Ireland — claimed he had reached out to TEF promoter Cesar Silva to try and postpone the event until proper medical standards could be met.

“Three months before the event, I had a telephone conversation with Mr. Cesar Silva,” Healy told the court.

“I explained to him at the time that professional boxing standards must be met to put on an MMA event in Ireland. Then there were a series of e-mails between January and April 2016 — all of which I can supply if necessary — during those I explained that professional boxing standards were required for MMA events in Ireland, that was the Minister of Sport’s recommendation.

“Mr. Silva indicated that there was a limited budget for this event and that Safe MMA and boxing standards were impossible. I suggested postponing the event until the safety standards could be cleared.”

Detective superintendent Paul Cleary told the court that Carvalho sustained 41 blows to the head during his 80 kg (176 lbs) catchweight fight against Ward.

The inquest heard that Carvalho walked to the medical room following the loss and was attended to by a team of doctors, paramedics and emergency medical technicians. Approximately 10 minutes after the fight, Carvalho took a turn for the worst and began to vomit.

The medical team that oversaw the event, EventMed, carried Carvalho through a crowded hall at The National Stadium to an ambulance. Carvalho was transported to the nearest emergency room on the floor of the ambulance. He died two days later, Apr. 11, 2016, at the Richmond intensive care ward at Beaumont Hospital due to blunt force trauma to the head.

The inquest jury returned a verdict of misadventure on Thursday evening. At an inquest last March, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) directed no criminal prosecutions in relation to Carvalho’s death.

At Thursday’s inquest, the jury recommended that a national governing body be set up to oversee MMA in Ireland. It also recommended that nationally qualified paramedics must be used for all MMA events in Ireland.

The Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA) have been working with Sport Ireland — a statutory authority set up to plan, lead and co-ordinate the sustainable development of competitive and recreational sport in Ireland — with a view to establishing a national governing body for MMA since Carvalho’s death.

John Kavanagh heads IMMAA, which is comprised of a number of key figures from the Irish MMA community. Safe MMA Ireland acts as a medical advisory board for IMMAA and the medical standards they have put in place are considered some of the most stringent in the world. In May 2016, BAMMA 26 was postponed to allow time for the promotion to fall in line with the protocol.

Following Thursday’s inquest, Irish Minister of Sport Shane Ross claimed “MMA leaders here in Ireland are deliberately dragging their feet on the establishment of appropriate governance and safety standards.”