This weekend it was reported that 27 year old Ramin Zeynalov died after suffering a blow to the head in an Azerbaijanian MMA event. This is the 11th death in the modern history of MMA. Like with boxing, the majority of the deaths appear to be in lower weight classes where weight cut practices and dehydration may play a role. Here is the list to date:
1. American Douglas Dedge died from “severe brain injuries” two days following an unregulated March 16, 1998 bout in Kiev, Ukraine. (Weight Unknown)
2. A Korean identified only as Lee died on May 12, 2005 in an unregulated bout in Samsong-dong, South Korea. The reported cause of death was heart attack. (Weight Unknown)
3. American Sam Vasquez died following a knockout loss at Renegades Extreme Fighting bout on October 20, 2007 in Houston Texas. This was the first noted death in a regulated MMA bout. The reported cause of death was blunt trauma of the head with a subdural hemorrhage. (Fought at 145 lbs)
4. American Michael Kirkham was pronounced dead two days after losing consciousness during a regulated bout in South Carolina on June 26, 2010. An autopsy report listed the cause of death as “subarachnoid hemorrhage of the brain” .(Fought at 155 lbs)
5. Mike Mittelmeier died April 27, 2012 following an unregulated April 21 event in Bolivia. He was diagnosed with a cerebral hemorrhage. (Weight Unknown)
6. Dustin Jenson died May 24, 2012 at Rapid City Regional Hospital in South Dakota, following an unregulated bout on May 18, 2012. The cause of death was a”subdural hemorrhage resulting from blunt force trauma to the head“. (Fought at 155 lbs)
7. Tyrone Mims died following a regulated amateur mixed martial arts show on August 11, 2012 in South Carolina. His cause of death was unexplained. (Fought at 180 lbs)
8. Canadian Resident Felix-Pablo Elochukwu died following an unregulated MMA bout in Michigan on April 7, 2013. (Apparently weighed 260 pounds, although a heavyweight, coroners concluded that there was “no evidence” that trauma played a role in the death.)
10. Booto Guylain died from head injuries following his February 27, 2014 loss at EFC Africa 27 in Johannesberg, South Africa. He died “as a result of complications related to the swelling of the brain“. (Fought at 185 lbs)
11. Ramin Zeynalov died after suffering a blow to the head in an unregulated bout in Azerbaijan in March, 2015. His cause of death is reported as “a brain hemorrhage“. (Weight unknown but video of the bout suggests he fought at a lower weight class)
13. (Update December 11, 2015) – ONE Championship fighter Yang Jian Bing died from complications secondary to a rapid extreme weight cut for a bout scheduled in the Phillipines.
14. (Update April 12, 2016) – Portuguese fighter Joao Carvalho died due to head trauma following a bout with Charlie Ward following a third round TKO loss. The bout took place in Dublin Ireland under the promotion Total Extreme Fighting. It was a unregulated bout with the promoter reportedly following the guidelines set by SAFE MMA. The promotion’s Facebook page listed the bout as being in the welterweight division.
15. (Update July 15, 2017) it is reported that amateur fighter Donshay White died tonight following a heavyweight bout at Hardrock MMA 90 in Louisville Kentucky. A coroners report determined that White suffered from a heart condition, specifically, “hypertensive/atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.”
16. (Update August 15, 2017) It is reported that amateur MMA fighter Rondel Clark died following an event held at Plymouth Memorial Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts on Saturday, August 12, 2017. This death has been attributed to his rapid extreme weight cut.
Update June 16, 2018 – A case study was published recently in the Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism linking rapid weight cutting as a possible culprit in the death of a mixed martial artist.