Michael Kirkham Dies: MMA Fighter Dies Days After Fighting Debut
A mixed martial arts fighter who was fighting his first pro bout died from injuries suffered in the ring.
Michael Kirkham, a fighter nicknamed "Tree" because of his 6'9" frame, died early Monday after his MMA debut this past Saturday on a pro and amateur card in Aiken, S.C.
How did it happen and what does this mean for the sport?
First Fight Since MMA Ban
Kirkham was competing in an event called the "Confrontation at the Convocation Center" event at the USC Aiken Convocation Center, a card regulated by the South Carolina Athletic Commission.
It was the first fight in Aiken since the state of South Carolina lifted their ban on MMA fights.
"Obviously our thoughts and prayers are with his family, other than that I have no comment," Sam King, a promoter of Saturday's card, told MMAFighting.com.
The local TV station, WRDW in Augusta, Ga., reported that Kirkham was taken to Aiken Regional Medical Center after the fight and was pronounced dead of a brain hemorrhage Monday morning.
Coroner Tim Carlton confirmed to MMAFighting.com that Kirkham was unconscious from the minute he was knocked out until he was pronounced dead.
Results of an autopsy will be released today.
Took Down Early In the Fight
Kirkham was 3-3 as an amateur before turning pro.
He was taken down early in the fight to a ground and pound position. The referee stopped the fight when it was clear Kirkham was not getting out of the hold.
At first, ringside officials thought he had been stunned. When he didn't regain consciousness, doctors and medics rushed to the ring and took him out by stretcher.
His "Fayetteville Independents" teammate John Yox said on his Facebook page that Kirkham had been kept on life support throughout the weekend.
Kirkham Deemed Healthy Before Fight
Kirkham (far right) had passed all physical tests before the fight.
Early conclusions is that all Kirkham's injuries occurred in the ring.
Kirkham's friends are flooding Yox's and his Facebook page with thoughts and prayers, but also saying they know Kirkham would not want to see MMA banned in the state or nationally.
Just The Second Known MMA Fighter To Die in the Ring
Kirkham is only the second fighter in the U.S. to die from injuries sustained during a regulated MMA fight.
Fighter Sam Vasquez died on Nov. 30, 2007, from head injuries sustained during a fight in Houston. Vazquez was in a coma for 42 days after the fight in October.