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UFC, Michigan legislature respond to Felix Pablo Elochukwu's death in unregulated amateur MMA bout

This past weekend a 35-year-old Canadian, Felix Pablo Elochukwu, died following an unregulated amateur MMA bout in Michigan. Tom Wright of the UFC has responded with a statement and the Michigan legislature has passed a bill regulating amateur MMA in that state.


In the aftermath of the tragic death of 35-year-old Canadian fighter Felix Pablo Elochukwu following his bout at AFC's Unleash the Beast in Port Huron, Michigan the UFC and the Michigan state legislature have both responded.

UFC executive Tom Wright, who heads up the promotion's efforts in Canada, fielded questions about Elochukwu's death at yesterday's UFC 161 press conference in Winnipeg (transcribed by MMA Fighting):

"What we don't know is whether or not there were any pre-existing medical conditions that Pablo was suffering from, and in a regulated environment, we would have known that," he said. "We also don't know if the referees were properly trained. We don't know whether or not there were the appropriate EMTs and ambulances and medical precautions in place. We don't even know if it was a fair fight as far as if the competitors were evenly balanced.

"Those are kinds of things we would know if the sport had been regulated, if the event had been regulated," he continued. "It speaks to the importance of regulation in our sport, why it's important that we have the appropriate kind of rigor and standards, from medical care to pre- and post-fight medical testing to drug testing to insuring the health and safety of these athletes is always first and foremost. And in the case of an unregulated event, you don't know whether those things are in place, which is why we as an organization have always run to regulation."

The Michigan House of Representatives also responded by passing a bill through the to regulate amateur MMA in that state.The Detroit News reports that a two-bill package will require promoters to be licensed, provide a cageside doctor and ambulance on site and require fighters undergo a physical exam and blood testing pre-fight. The bill will also bar promoters with felony convictions of fraud, theft and violence or unpaid tax liens exceeding $5,000 from getting state licenses.

The 2nd bill would make it a misdemeanor to violate the proposed Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Regulatory Act and create a felony for anyone who knowingly allows a professional mixed martial arts fighter to battle in an amateur event. Violation of the felony would be punishable by up to three years in prison or a $10,000 fine.

From the Detroit News:

State Rep. Harvey Santana, a Detroit Democrat, inherited the legislation from former state Rep. Dave Agema, a Grandville Republican who was term-limited last year.

"The unfortunate events that happened over the weekend kind of catapulted it faster," Santana said.

Michigan's unregulated amateur MMA scene has long been a tragedy waiting to happen and it's good to see that Michigan lawmakers are finally stepping up to the plate to prevent further needless deaths. Hopefully the bill will pass the upper chamber of the legislature and get the Governor's signature without further delay.

For context, has compiled a list of deaths in MMA competition since 1993:

Douglas Dedge • March 16, 1998 • Kiev, Ukraine • Unregulated • Chief emergency room doctor attributed death to "severe brain injuries." • First MMA death in the modern era. • Dedge is reported to have passed out in training previous to the fight, and is believed to have had a preexisting medical condition.

Korean identified only as Lee • May 12, 2005 • Samsong-dong, South Korea • Entirely unregulated bout took place in a bar. • Cause of death was heart attack.

Sam Vasquez • October 20, 2007 • Houston Texas • Cause of death was subdural hemorrhage due to blunt trauma of the head, following a KO loss in the third round • First death in a sanctioned MMA event.

Michael Kirkham • June 26, 2010 • Aiken, South Carolina • Regulated bout • Cause of death was subarachnoid hemorrhage of the brain • Kirkham lost his previous fight on April 24 by TKO; Dr. Joe Estwanik believes "this could have been second-impact syndrome."

Mike Mittelmeier • April 27, 2012 • Bolivia • Unregulated bout allowing face kicks to grounded opponent; there was no ambulnace standing by. • Mittlemeier got kicked in the head while attempting a leg lock. • Cause of death was cerebral hemorrhage.

Dustin Jenson • May 24, 2012 • Rapid City, South Dakota • Unregulated bout • Jenson tapped without appearing to take any severe blows. • Caue of death was subdural hemorrhage resulting from blunt force trauma to the head.

Tyrone Mims • August 11, 2012 • Mount Pleasant, South Carolina • Regulated bout • Autopsy results were inconclusive, with no evidence of a concussion or brain trauma detected, no drugs or alcohol detected by toxicology tests. "(Mims) might have had an irregular heart because of some electrical dysfunction," said Coroner Rae Wooten. "That obviously isn't seen after death. Once that's completed, there's no evidence of that.... There's just nothing here that explains his death."

Felix Pablo Elochukwu • April 7th, 2013 • Port Huron, Michigan • Unregulated bout • Autopsy pending.