A week ago, Rocky Batolbatol was in the final stages of training camp. Then, his fight was cancelled. Now, he's dead.
On Sunday morning in his hometown of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, Batolbatol was in the neighborhood of the Mindanao Unified Mixed Martial Arts gym, where he trained and coached. Batolbatol, 32, and his cousin Gennar Ponce, also an MMA fighter, were walking along the Gusa Highway when they were struck by a taxi cab driver.
The cab driver, later identified as Jerson Bersabal, was not immediately apprehended by authorities, but was rather restrained by onlookers until police arrived. Bersabal, who denies that he was intoxicated during the incident, faces a charge of reckless imprudence resulting in double homicide.
In a cruel and ironic twist, according to a report from Filipino outlet ABS CBN, Batolbatol and Ponce were struck in front of the Capitol University Medical Hospital, a private facility. As a result, both were transported to J.R. Borja Public Hospital, over five kilometers away. Both men were pronounced dead on arrival.
Since turning pro in October 2011, Batolbatol amassed a 5-3 MMA record, but had lost three consecutive bouts under the One Championship banner, last seeing action in a first-round knockout defeat to Christian Lee in May 2016. He was preparing to face Sunoto Peringkat at One's “Conquest of Kings,” which was scheduled for this coming Saturday in Surabaya, Indonesia. The card was canceled by the company late last week citing “logistical issues.”
“One Championship is deeply saddened by his untimely passing,” the promotion wrote in a statement. “The organization extends its sincerest sympathies and deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Rocky Batolbatol during this very difficult time.”