The number one question that people ask me when I tell them I host an MMA show is; “Do you train?” I always answer yes and then they will ask if I have ever fought and while I have had a ton of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournaments and a couple of boxing matches I have never taken an MMA fight. Not because of fear of failure or of the fight itself, but because I live in an unregulated amateur state that doesn’t protect its fighters. So for me, it becomes a risk not worth taking.
But what about the 18 year olds who want to get into the UFC? What can they do? Well, let me offer them a cautionary tale about Nigerian-born Pablo Elochukwu who had his first MMA fight on Friday in Port Huron that would be his last MMA bout – as he died after it was over. According to reports neither he nor his opponent went through pre-fight medicals and at some point in the second round the fight seemed to take its toll on Pablo and in the third he was mounted and no longer intelligently defending himself so the ref stopped the fight. Elochukwu was able to walk on his own accord and stand for the announcement of the winner of the fight but when he walked back to his corner something went wrong and he collapsed.
The ambulance was called because like most of these shows EMTs are not on site they are on call because it is cheaper and he was revived on the scene and taken to a local hospital. At some point between the venue and the hospital Elochukwu died and we await the results of the autopsy. The fact remains that if a state is willing to regulate and oversee the professional arm of a sport, that sport being MMA, as they do in the state of Michigan - why would they be so unwilling to regulate the amateur arm of the sport?
Is it cost? You hear that a lot, that regulation and things like having EMTs on site for the event is a barrier to entry for smaller promoters to put on shows. The issue with that is you are making money as a promoter off of fighters who don’t get paid so bank some of that money you make from their sacrifices and use it to protect them. And if you can’t, then go into another line of work.
If you are a fighter, there is no doubt that you have chosen a dangerous line of work. But, why would you not take an interest in your own health and pass on fights where they don’t do, at the very least, blood work and in rare cases and yearly CAT scan. I am heartbroken at reading about Pablo Elochukwu because it is tragic and most certainly preventable. If you look at the number of reported MMA fatalities in the world, there are 9 of them. 70% of those happened in unsanctioned or unregulated bouts. There has never been a death the UFC and that should be the model.
If you want this sport to grow in the way I want it to grow you can understand that protecting the fighters has to be the number one goal in all of this. So do me and any fighter that you know a favor and boycott Michigan amateur MMA shows until the state begins to regulate them. Because until then we will continue to put young or inexperienced fighters into situations where no one is looking out for their best interest and that isn’t good for anyone.