Fighter Dies in South Carolina After First Pro Bout

By Staff Jun 28, 2010
For the second time in less than three years, death has visited the mixed martial arts community.

Michael Kirkham, a 30-year-old based in Fayetteville, N.C., died Monday from injuries he was believed to have sustained during his first professional MMA match. The 6-foot-9 lightweight was knocked out at Dash Entertainment/King MMA “Confrontation at the Convocation Center” in Aiken, S.C., on Saturday. Kirkham never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at nearby Aiken Regional Medical Center two days later.

Aiken County Coroner Tim Carlton on Monday told the Associated Press that Kirkham died from bleeding inside the brain. An autopsy will be conducted on Tuesday.

South Carolina law prevented organized MMA competition until state legislators approved a measure to allow the South Carolina Athletic Commission to regulate fights last summer.

Kirkham held a 3-3 mark as an amateur and, according to his Facebook page, trained in tae kwon do and submission wrestling for three and a half years. He operated out of the Fayetteville Independents camp in Fayetteville, N.C.

Kirkham joins Sam Vasquez as the only other fatality at a regulated event. Vasquez died on Nov. 30, 2007, a little more than a month after his bout with Vince Libardi at a Renegades Fighting Extreme show in Houston.

Competing for the first time in more than a year, the 35-year-old married father of one battled Libardi in a featherweight contest at the Toyota Center, succumbing to strikes 2:50 into round three. Emergency medical technicians tended to Vasquez for several minutes, until he lost consciousness and was rushed to a local hospital. Despite hopes and prayers, Vasquez’s conditioned worsened. On Nov. 4, two weeks after he was admitted, he underwent the first of two surgeries to relieve pressure on his brain. He then suffered a massive stroke and was placed in a medically induced coma. Doctors could do little else to save him, and on Nov. 30, he was gone.

The only confirmed death prior to government oversight came when 31-year-old Douglas Dedge died in 1998 at a non-sanctioned World Super Challenge event in Kiev, Ukraine. The Chipley, Fla., resident passed out during a training session leading up to the fight but went through with the match anyway.
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