Death in the ring: a dark look at combat sport

17 Nov

Please take a minute to watch this video:


You can also read the entire article at

I was incredibly angered the first time I saw this, over this weekend. I waited a few days to blog about it, because I wanted to be calm and address it in detail. For those who do not know me well, I have been on all sides of combat sport. I have trained and cornered fighters, I have promoted events, I have been a matchmaker, I have been a judge, I have been a center referee and I have worked with several athletic commissions. From each and all of these perspectives, there is a LOT WRONG GOING ON HERE.


This was an amateur match. In fact, it was Dennis Munson Jr.’s first match. As New Jersey’s athletic commission counsel Nick Lembo has already said in the video posted; where amateurs are concerned it is ALWAYS important to err on the side of caution. It is better to stop a match early than a second late. In my personal opinion, if you opt to promote amateur events (which I did for YEARS), what you really should be opting to do is develop athletes, not be concerned with “entertainment.” I know that is a wildly unpopular stance, but look at the consequences of “letting them bang” for entertainment’s sake.

For an amateur match, you might notice some other problems. No head gear and no shin pads. There was a time when I REFUSED To put an amateur in the ring without head gear. I based this upon my experience in full contact Taekwondo (being an active athlete the summer three people died) AND the literature available at the time regarding head gear and secondary impact syndrome. I must of course note that the literature, the science, on this has changed. It is no longer clear whether head gear prevents secondary impact. But, perhaps, in a FIRST MATCH it would not have been such a bad idea.


Regarding shin pads, I still wonder why people would ever expect amateurs to fight without them? We’ve seen several times in recent memory the potential injuries to the leg that can result from kicking without pads (Anderson Silva, et al). The simple fact is, without pads, there are going to be injuries, even if minor. Why ask amateurs who are not being compensated to get that injured? Even from the “entertainment” angle, amateurs are going to KICK MORE with shin pads. If the only answer is “because that is how they do it in Thailand” you’d actually be wrong; amateurs in Thailand fight WITH PADS (IFMA).

You should really watch the video closely and read the article. It addresses the specifics in this case. But I’ll add a few things that are ALWAYS an issue in a state where amateur events are not regulated. My very own state, New York, is NOT regulated. Even events with “sanctioning bodies” often suffer from the following issues;

1. Not having the proper medical personal, including ambulances waiting to take an injured fighter immediately to an ER.

2. Not supervising weigh-ins and weight cuts.

3. Not properly vetting the athletes. It seems that lying about your record has become common practice in combat sports. I’ll leave my comments on this for another blog (hint: you’re a bitch). I’ve even seen professionals trying to fight as amateurs.

4. Poor to horrible match making. Putting someone with 1 or 2 fights against a seasoned amateur, often so that person can win a “title.” Often because that seasoned fighter is affiliated with the promotion.

5. So called officials who don’t really understand or know the rules.

I am still sort of angry about all this, so I’m sure I will have even more comments on this later….

David Ross


One Response to “Death in the ring: a dark look at combat sport”

  1. khunkaogym November 17, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

    We discussed much of this on Facebook, but there were failures on so many levels that its absurd! I, too, have been involved in just about every possible role in fight promotions, from being the fighter, to cornering, judging, refereeing, matchmaking, and promoting. My personal motto has always been that I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror the next morning and be comfortable with myself.

    As a ‘somewhat’ experienced referee, I watched the video, and even WITH the commentary realized that I likely would not have noticed the fighters symptoms that he was in trouble until the close of the 2nd round/beginning of the 3rd round. However, to me it was becoming very obvious that this fighter was in trouble from the get-go in the 3rd, and AT THE VERY LEAST, should have been given standing 8-counts so the referee could assess the fighter.

    This outright negligence of this fighter’s cornermen was unreal! He needed to lift his fighters head at least 3x’s while in the corner between rounds 2 & 3. He needed to help his fighter stand and steady himself as round 3 was beginning. As a cornerman, I am my fighters first line of defense. I am often in the role of protecting the fighter from himself/herself!

    I’m also appalled at the ringside physician. Checking your cellphone during a match is unfathomable! His “care” at the end of the match was incompetent. I don’t know if this would count as ‘criminal negligence’, but I would hope that they would consider it in their investigation of this situation.

    Sport fighting is an extremely dangerous hobby and/or occupation, but there are safeguards in place that should keep PREVENTABLE injuries from happening. There is plenty of blame to spread around for this and I hope the entire combat sports community can take this as a “wake-up” call and learn from this before it happens again!

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