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Bloody Elbow Exclusive: Comment on Sammy Vasquez

With the news of the death of Sammy Vasquez, the MMA fighter hailing from Houston, Texas, we are reminded of the true meaning of tragedy. Sammy sustained an ultimately fatal injury competing in a professional, legally-sanctioned mixed martial arts event. This is the first tragedy of the sort to happen in the sport's history.

Mixed martial arts has infiltrated the mainstream consciousness the old fashioned way: earning recognition for legitimacy by chasing conventional norms. Dana White and the UFC didn't run from regulation; they chased it head on. They sought out approval from a system that would've been plenty content with their eventual and hopefully invisible demise.

That means the sport must do the same now. I'm not suggesting at this interval that something is clearly amiss. The rules and sanctioning process are serviceable in their effectiveness and we applaud that, but that does not imply they are not without reproach and more importantly, revision.

Sammy Vazquez - and his family, and every fighter - deserve no less. At every interval of tragedy, reflection is essential. The new way forward must incorporate the loss and yet find the potential of newness and recuperation possible going forward. To aright what has clearly gone wrong here requires a second look. We must reevaluate what we are doing and seek out a more altruistic end that truly adopts an ethos of "fighter's safety first."

In a perfect world, no fighter dies in competition. Yet, our world is far from perfect. But that absolves us from nothing. Our shortcomings are not crutches for an abdication of responsibility. So, with a sober, heavy heart I say to the Vasquez how sorry we all truly are. Your loss is both perfunctory and unexpected. It is a loss we all share, but nowhere approximating the sorrow you must feel. If there is anything anyone among us can do, contact us at once.

Lastly, to the MMA hardcores: this is serious beyond what can easily be dismissed. The nightmare has finally arrived. Amidst all the sanctioning processes and oversight, a fighter in professional competition suffered defeat. Lethal defeat. We knew the system wasn't perfect and now we have proof. Worse, now "they" have proof, too. "They" being the bitter enders of critics, politicians and pundits slandering the sport for ratings grabs. This incident - as tragic as even they will report it to be - will nonetheless be used by them. However, that means nothing to you. You must not dismiss the tragedy of this matter to buttress a sport to idolaters of fame. Do not overlook this day to generalize about an activity even though we cherish it. The time for that will come. It is not now. It is not today. Now is about Sammy Vasquez.

On behalf of Team Bloody Elbow and the entire MMA community, I say: rest in peace, Sammy Vasquez. You will be missed.


Luke Thomas