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Mixed Martial Artist Dies After Making His Pro Debut (Update II)

Mixed martial arts may have a safer track record than boxing or other sports, but that doesn’t mean tragedies don’t occur.

This past Saturday night, 30-year old mixed martial artist Michael Kirkham died from brain-related injuries after making his pro debut at an event in South Carolina.

The Aiken County coroner said Monday that 30-year-old Michael Kirkham died from bleeding inside the brain. Coroner Tim Carlton said Kirkham collapsed following Saturday night’s fight at the USC Aiken Convocation Center.

He added that Kirkham was taken to Aiken Regional Medical Center and never regained consciousness. Carlton said an autopsy will be done Tuesday.

MMA Fighting adds that Kirkham was a lightweight nicknamed the “Tree” for standing a towering 6’9″. According to their report, Kirkham’s opponent took him down and delivered strikes from the top until the ref stopped the fight. Kirkham was unconscious when the fight ended and never woke up before he was pronounced dead earlier this morning.

This marks the second death recorded in professionally regulated mixed martial arts competition. In 2007, Sam Vasquez died 42 days after slipping into a coma following a knockout loss at a MMA event in Houston, Texas.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Kirkham’s friends and family.

Update: The South Carolina athletic commission is going to conduct an internal review of the incident. The trainer of Carlos Iraburo, Kirkham’s opponent, said he didn’t see anything suspect with the way the fight was handled.

“I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary or that I could say was suspect.”

“This wasn’t a brutal beating,” Greubel said. “Carlos shot in (and) took [Kirkham] down. They were scrambling on the ground. Kirkham was trying to get back up by wall-walking up the cage; he had his right hand on the ground. Carlos hit him with a few left hands in a row, and that was it. Michael was knocked out.

“The referee jumped in when he should have. Carlos immediately stopped. There were no punches after the referee stoppage. We figured for sure the guy would come to in a few seconds, and he just never did.”

Update 2: The autopsy revealed Michael Kirkham died of “a subarachnoid hemorrhage of the brain due to injuries and blows to the head that he received.” This is the same thing that rocker Bret Michaels recently survived. The South Carolina Athletic Commission and Aiken County Coroner’s Office have both launched investigations into Kirkham’s death. Kirkham was a father of five and had plans to get married. A fund has been set up to help aid his family at

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