By Zach Arnold | July 15, 2010
A.J. Perez at MMA Fighting talks about Death in the Cage: The Michael Kirkham story. It’s a must-read article with plenty of background information. It does not paint a pretty picture of anyone. There’s one theme throughout this article that I kept shaking my head at, which is that he was “a good fighter.” It sure didn’t look like it in that fight that was on YouTube against D’Juan Owens before it got removed. There’s an incredible danger of letting amateurs who aren’t skilled or experienced enough get licensing to become a professional fighter.
The Augusta Chronicle on Saturday published three articles on Michael Kirkham and his death. Each one provides background information on what led up to the fight that ended up taking his life. Other news articles linked as well.
- Fatal MMA fight in Aiken, South Carolina almost did not happen (Kirkham was literally a last-minute fill-in on a card. He fought at 6′9″ and was 150 pounds.)
- MMA proponents know death could hurt sport (article includes quotes from Dr. Johnny Benjamin)
- Fighter killed in Aiken towered in stature, ambition (Michael Kirkham’s brother speaks out)
- Michael Kirkham’s father speaks out
- Eyewitnesses speak on fighter’s death; commission launches investigation
The Charleston Post and Courier published an op-ed stating that they want MMA banned in South Carolina and compared MMA to cockfighting. They promptly turned off comments to the op-ed on their web site.
Maggie Hendricks at Yahoo Sports wrote an article about the story and stated the following:
So soon after Kirkham’s death, MMA fans and opponents alike should not use this as a reason to question the sport, the South Carolina officials or MMA’s place in society. Until we find out anything concrete, the only suitable course of action is to keep Michael Kirkham’s friends and family in our thoughts.
This did not sit well with former UFC matchmaker John Perretti (audio linked here), who had a lot to say about the fact that health & safety standards throughout various athletic commissions are declining as opposed to increasing in quality.
Eddie Goldman also examined what medical tests are not required in South Carolina.
(I’ve edited out some of the ‘you knows’ due to reader request. Let’s see how this goes.)
JOHN PERRETTI: “I know that I watched the amateur video and I don’t know who the referee was, but even in the amateur video this kid was severely over-matched. He was… he was completely clueless on the ground. In fact, he ran his hips at a completely opposite direction instead of trying to get his leg underneath this guy to get him off of him. He took repeated blows to the head, I think I counted 15 unanswered blows. The referee sat there, hunched over him like an owl on a tree and did nothing and then without any answering at all, turned his back completely and still getting punched repeatedly with no defense. He was just pummeled. I don’t know how his other professional debut went, but here’s a guy who doesn’t even know the first thing about fighting and I saw him throw one kick and it was pathetic. He’s a guy who shouldn’t have even been in the ring. I mean, he knew nothing. It was obvious he knew nothing. And he was over-matched. And that was his in his amateur bout.”
EDDIE GOLDMAN: “This is a fight with someone named D’Juan Owens that took place in April of this year and on the basis of this, I don’t know really anything about D’Juan Owens but on the basis of this, Mike Kirkham turned pro Saturday night and to me…”
JOHN PERRETTI: “It’s just ludicrous, here’s a guy with absolutely no skills over-matched against a guy who was … in pretty good shape and it was like beating up the kid who is 12 years younger than you down the block for his candy. It’s tragic and people are praying for the family and whatever, but this kid shouldn’t have been in there. He’s 30 years old and he’s too old to learn this stuff, too. He has no right to be there and he’s dead! So, everything that we’ve been saying that’s going to happen, going to happen, going to happen, well it’s happening! You know, in fact, it’s happening six hours after we talk about it. So, I just got off the phone with Bob Meyrowitz for a half hour and we talked about how tragic this is becoming and I don’t care how much the UFC is making and how much money there is in this sport. Someone’s got to have some regulation here or else there’s going to be dead people and damaged people and injured people everywhere and it’s just unnecessary.”
EDDIE GOLDMAN: “You mention regulation. If you go to the web site of the Association of Boxing Commissions which the South Carolina commission is part of, they linked to the American Association of Professional Ringside Physicians which list the medical requirements for fighters in there, they’re identical for boxing and MMA and this is supposed to be updated. For the state of South Carolina, an EKG which is for your heart – not required. EEG for your brain, not required. They do require a dilated eye exam, but the dilatation can be a problem for the eyes but that’s another issue. CT scan, not required. MRI, not required. You are required to have something called a neurological exam by a neurologist, I guess you’re asked what day of the week it is or something.”
JOHN PERRETTI: “And they see if you have reflexes in your elbows and wrists and your knees.”
EDDIE GOLDMAN: “Right, but there’s not examination of the brain and this guy died apparently of brain injuries.”
JOHN PERRETTI: “You know, I want to stop you for just a second. I’m infuriated. 12 years ago, Extreme Fighting, we had mandatory CT scans, mandatory blood tests… We had so much stuff going on, we were so far ahead of the time and that’s 12 years ago and maybe longer actually and I just don’t understand how this can go all retroactive and go back in time. Even if it is in The Deep South, sort of speak, you know I Just think it’s really offensive to not give these guys a fair shake.”
EDDIE GOLDMAN: “And he was reported to be 30 years old, we’re also going to find out eventually I guess whether that age is really accurate because sometimes people shave off years there, we don’t know in this case. There’s a writer on Yahoo and Yahoo is one of the places where, by the way they don’t call their section MMA, they call it UFC which already lets, you know, what’s going on there. And they also show the UFC PPVs so they make money directly off of these shows. A writer named Maggie Hendricks writing about this concludes her article: ‘So soon after Kirkham’s death, MMA fans and opponents alike should not use this as a reason to question the sport, the South Carolina officials, or MMA’s place in society…”
JOHN PERRETTI: “Why?”
EDDIE GOLDMAN: “Why? Because she said.”
JOHN PERRETTI: “Why? I want to know why? I want to know who she is! You know, why and who are YOU? What do you know and what is your experience in this life? Because I’m a little sick of it. All these marks, you know they’re all so full of [expletive]. They don’t know anything. They can’t tie their shoes and it’s just disgusting.”
EDDIE GOLDMAN: “Well, also I want to go over some of these other tests that are not required in South Carolina. A complete physical exam, not required. NOT REQUIRED. And a number of blood tests, while you do get tested for HIV and Hepatitis B and C, no complete blood count. No blood clotting test. No chest x-ray. No TB test.”
JOHN PERRETTI: “I mean, you can go to prison and get a TB test!”
EDDIE GOLDMAN: “Well, there are higher medical requirements in prison than to fight in a professional Mixed Martial Arts event in the state of South Carolina.”
JOHN PERRETTI: “This guy had no right fighting in a professional format. I mean, this guy was a novice with a capital N… and he just had no right. I don’t know what anyone was thinking. I would be an advocate for the family when they decide to sue because this, this referee in this amateur fight alone was absolutely negligent.”
Speaking of athletic commissions, nobody on either UFC event in Nevada in the past three weeks was subjected to out-of-competition drug testing. Not one fighter.