Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Michael Kirkham, who was known as the “Tree” for his height (6-feet-9), has sadly passed away in result of the injuries suffered during his first professional MMA fight on Saturday (June 26).
The 30 year-old was pronounced dead of a brain hemorrhage at the Aiken Regional Medical Center on Monday (June 28). “The hospital is only three minutes away,” Aiken County coroner Tim Carlton said. “They did CPR immediately, but he never regained consciousness.” Michael’s death was ruled accidental.
This tragically death raises questions about the extreme health risks the fighters face in the ring. “The mentality that ‘these fighters are gladiators, let them go out on their shields’ is really detrimental to the sport,” says Dr. Johnny Benjamin, an orthopedic surgeon who has mixed martial arts and boxing clients. “It needs to be seen more in the light of a major sport like the NFL and major league
Still, Benjamin defends the sport. “Between boxing and MMA there are very similar type of injuries,” he says. “But MMA is safer because when you get knocked out and down, the fight is over. You don’t get 10 seconds to come back up and get hit again.”