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Hunter Boone’s gruesome cage injury could spur new rules for tribal commission

Hunter Boone
Hunter Boone, Facebook

Promoters in Oklahoma may face new padding requirements for MMA cages after an amateur fighter was severely injured this past Saturday at an event on tribal land.

Regulators with the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Boxing Commission, which oversaw the Martial Combat League event in Shawnee, will first need to decide what materials will guarantee the fighters’ safety in the cage. That could mean thicker or more dense foam to protect the areas like the one Boone ran headlong into, opening a cut that required 17 staples to close.

“Where this happened is probably something nobody would have caught,” Joey Miller, the CPN comission’s executive director, told MMA Fighting.

Video from the Feb. 12 fight appears to show Boone make contact with a section of the cage door and drop to the canvas. He appears to momentarily lose consciousness before wrapping up his opponent, Jordan Brown. The referee, Kevin Nix, then notices something and immediately waves off the fight.

Nix told MMA Fighting the injury was “the worst accident I’ve ever seen” in 25 years of officiating.

Miller said the cage was inspected by the commission and the referee before and after the event, and nothing out of the ordinary was found. One of Boone’s training partners, Jesse Dalton, alleged the injury was caused by “an exposed metal bracket on the cage.” But Miller indicated the padding simply wasn’t strong enough to withstand the impact of Boone’s head.

“For inspectors, they’re looking at it [to see] is it covered, is any metal exposed,” he said. “A lot of times, we get zip ties that are poking out the wrong way, and it wasn’t anything like that. In my opinion, I think we’re just going to have to start requiring a thicker density of foam.”

“There’s a lot of talk saying the pole was exposed,” Nix added. “It wasn’t exposed. It was covered. It had padding on it. But would I want to slam my head against it? No. There’s probably a lot of cages probably the same way.”

The promoter, Dylan Smith, declined to answer questions about the cage and Boone’s injury. In a prepared statement, Martial Combat League wrote on Facebook, “We assembled our cage no differently than we have for each of our previous events. It is our understanding that the sanctioning commission of the event inspected the cage prior to the show. No issues with the cage were brought to our attention by the sanctioning commission. ... We don’t have an answer as to why this injury occurred and we’re, without a doubt, extremely sorry to the individual who suffered this injury.”

Boone’s coach, Jason Greer, was critical of Smith’s behavior after the event, saying the statement expressing condolences to Boone was only released after people complained that the promotion’s initial statement made no mention of the fighter.

Greer said Smith was “defensive and dismissive” about his responsibility for the accident. He alleged that when his fiancee approached Smith, expressing safety concerns for the rest of the fighters, the promoter told her she “just wants him for his money.” In an exchange of social media messages forwarded to MMA Fighting, Smith wrote that his words were taken out of context and said there was “an obvious misunderstanding here.”

Greer conceded that, apart from the accident, Smith ran the event professionally and gave Boone the promotion’s event insurance information to use at the hospital. Promotions are required to carry a policy that covers injuries on fight night, though they are capped at a certain level, and Miller was unclear on the policy’s limit.

In a text message, Boone on Tuesday told MMA Fighting he sustained a concussion from the impact and is “still kind of out of it.” He said he would speak on the incident after he had more time to recover. That wouldn’t keep him out of the gym, however. His coach, Jason Greer, said Boone planned to help corner teammates with upcoming fights on Wednesday.

Greer wants the loss overturned to a no-contest. The amateur fighter was upset that he’d added another loss to his record. But Greer praised his student’s resilience.

“If something bad’s going to happen to somebody, I’m really happy it tends to happen to strong people, and Hunter’s a strong son of a gun,” Greer said.

In 10 days, Greer said the fighter is expected to be healed enough to begin light training. Boone will need that strength — Greer is on the verge of booking Boone’s next fight for April 24.

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