Amateur MMA fighter Christian Lubenga has died following a fight at the AMMO Fight League: Battle of St. Patrick’s event on March 12. The event was held at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA (per WWLP).
Lubenga was making his amateur debut in the bout. His opponent, Cody McCracken, was also making his amateur debut. The fight ended in a TKO victory for McCracken at the 2:38 minute mark of Round 3.
New England MMA’s Lars Borssen reported that the ending of the fight “didn’t seem very violent” and that “there is no word on what caused Lubenga’s death.”
Lubenga trained at Black Wolf Martial Arts in Orange, Connecticut. The gym released a statement on March 14 expressing sadness over the loss of Lubenga.
The gym’s statement reads:
“We are at a loss of words. This is what a nightmare looks like…. It cant even be properly articulated with words and on a social media post nonetheless. We wanted to give the family some time to make their own decisions about how to go public with this before we spoke on it out of respect. While we ourselves are grieving and it’s difficult to even type this out we felt it appropriate to take a moment to say a few things.
Christian wasn’t just any student. Christian was the kind of human who brought life and light into any room he walked into. Christian was our family. We shared laughs, stories, blood, sweat, tears. He’s the kind of person I aspire to be like and I wish more people were like him. Polite, professional, humble, always kind to everyone no matter what. We spent hundreds of thousands of hours together doing the things we were passionate about. Christian was a true martial artist in every aspect of the word and a true warrior. We love you Christian. We all love you.”
On his personal Instagram account Lubenga wrote that he was a grad student, a father and someone who was “martial arts addicted”. He also expressed his dream to become the “next Congolese UFC champ”.
According to CT Post the Hampden County District Attorney’s office is investigating Lubenga’s death and the county medical examiner will be conducting an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
That outlet reports that Lubenga was transported to hospital after the bout because he was feeling unwell. He died two days later.
This descriptions sounds similar to cases where combat sports athletes have died after sustaining a subdural hematoma. Also known as a brain bleed, these injuries cause blood to pool between the brain and the skull. Because there is nowhere for the blood to go, if left untreated the pool of blood will swell and cause pressure on the brain that is often fatal.
Brain bleeds are extremely hard to diagnose and treat. When someone suffers a brain bleed, caused by the brain violently colliding with the inside of the skull, they often experience something called a ‘lucid interval’.
A lucid interval is a period of time when a person, despite bleeding from the brain, doesn’t feel any symptoms. In these cases, individuals can start to feel nauseous, dizzy or confused hours after the injury has been sustained. Sadly, after someone realizes they are unwell—and they have made it to a hospital with a trauma center—it is often too late to perform life-saving surgery.
A handheld device known as an infrascanner, which measures the flow of blood around the brain, can detect bleeds before they cause symptoms, thus allowing sufferers to be swiftly taken to hospital. The infrascanner, which costs around $12,000 a unit, is available to ringside physicians in some jurisdictions.
The California State Athletic Commission has an infrascanner on hand at all combat sports events in the state. MMA shows in the Republic of Ireland, including shows for Bellator and BAMMA, have also made the infrascanner available to physicians. Many NFL teams also carry the device.
In 2021 at least three athletes died of head injuries shortly after taking part in combat sports bouts.
In September Luis Gabriel Peres, 22, died after an MMA fight in Brazil. That same month Jeanette Zacaria Zapata, 18, died after a boxing match in Montreal. In October Justin Thornton died after a bare knuckle fight at BKFC 20.