Felix Nchikwo, fighting under the name Felix Pablo Elochukwu, passed away following an April 5 unregulated mixed martial arts bout in Port Huron, Mich.
The fight was stopped in the third round after Nchikwo failed to properly defend himself. Shortly after the stoppage, Nchikwo collapsed. He died the following day in the hospital.
Nchikwo trained out of Joslin’s Martial Arts in Ontario, Canada.
UFC Canada’s Director of Operations Tom Wright stressed the need for regulation following the tragic loss of Nchikwo.
“First and foremost, our thoughts and condolences go to Pablo’s family. It was a tragic incident that happened,” said Wright when asked about the death on April 10 during a UFC 161 press conference in Winnipeg.
“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 continued. “We also don’t know if the referees were properly trained. We don’t know whether or not there were the appropriate EMTs and ambulance and medical precautions in place. We don’t even know if it was a fair fight as much as that the two competitors were evenly balanced.
“Those are the kinds of things we would know had the sport been regulated, if the event had been regulated. 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, from pre and post-fight medical testing to drug testing to ensuring that 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 passing of Nchikwo took place just days before Michigan’s House of Representatives passed a bill that mandates the creation of an advisory commission to oversee mixed martial arts. The legislation still has to gain senate approval to become a law.
“When we started here in Canada, there were many provinces that we weren’t (regulated). When we took over in the United States there were only two states out of fifty that regulated our sport. It’s important that we protect the health and safety of our athletes. It’s important that our sport is properly regulated, and I think if anything what the tragic events of last Friday underscore the importance of that regulation,” said Wright.
An autopsy was performed on Nchikwo and the full results will take weeks, but a representative of the St. Clair County coroner’s office told CBC News that there was “no evidence” that Nchikwo’s death was caused by trauma suffered during the fight.