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That second death in MMA

Everyone remembers Douglas Dedge, the dude who took a fight in Ukraine even though he was blacking out during training and couldn’t pass a North American physical. He became known as the first death in MMA, often asterisked by the fact that he was a reckless idiot and the event was an unsanctioned fight in the butthole of eastern Europe.

MMA has since had it’s first death during a sanctioned event in America, but there was an in-between death that occurred in Korea that never got much attention. Chris Nelson at BE drops a link with the details:

Fierce mixed martial arts (MMA) matches have stirred up controversy over their safety, following the death of a player during a game in a restaurant in southern Seoul. Thursday night, the player, identified as his surname Lee, died right after a game at Gimme Five, a live sports and entertainment restaurant located in COEX in Samsong-dong.

The 35-year-old was injured around the eyes only one minute after the first round started, and the game was halted. Lee reportedly went to a locker room but collapsed while talking to a doctor. He was taken to a hospital but died soon after. Police said an autopsy showed that the direct cause of the death was a myocardial infarction.

Lee, who worked as an MMA player and butcher in his hometown Wonju, Kangwon Province, reportedly took part in the game that night just after arriving in Seoul. “We knew Lee might be tired but let him enter the game, because he said his condition was fine,” a Gimme Five staff said.

Critics say the restaurant allowed a player, whose health condition was not confirmed, to enter the fighting ring even though safety is a key issue for the MMA, which allows all kinds of beating and kicking without weapons. The ward office in Kangnam-gu has also come under criticism for allowing unregulated MMA matches by regarding the fighting game as a performance.

“We regard MMA as a performance, as the restaurant does not charge an additional fee for the matches, just for food,” a ward official said.

Gimme Five also did not insure Lee for damages although it was Lee’s second game at the restaurant following his first last year.

There are no official organizations supervising MMA in Korea, and several small agencies insure their own players. “Such accidents are predicted, as the nation’s MMA field neglects players’ safety and many amateurs are participating in a large number of games,” a worker of an MMA agency said.

The restaurant puts on two games every night except Sunday, and many untrained players have been able to challenge to a game. Most of the nation’s MMA players have other jobs to make a living and do not receive proper medical checkups. At the restaurant, a winner reportedly receives 400,000 won a game, while a loser takes 100,000 won.

“Referees have great responsibility for the violent game as they need to stop the fighting at dangerous moments. But there are no professional referees,” the worker said.

Lee’s bereaved family demanded an official apology from Gimme Five and compensation for the accident, claiming the restaurant and Lee’s agency showed an insincere attitude toward their liability. The restaurant plans to suspend the game for a while.

New on my radar to the list of under-reported deaths in MMA is a pretty messed up one allegedy involving 16 year olds fighting in Tijuana back in the 80s. The event was classified as a mix of ‘boxing, karate and judo’ and god knows it’s probably nothing like the MMA going on even in the early 90’s, but I thought I’d include it because holy shit Mexico had 16 year olds fighting to the death in the eighties!