For MMA fans, the day we hoped would never come (but knew eventually would) is unfortunately here.
Mixed martial arts competitor Sam Vasquez has become the sport's first fatality resulting from injuries sustained in a sanctioned MMA fight according to the Houston Chronicle's Chron.com.
Vasquez, 35, died last November of complications from head trauma suffered at the hands of opponent Vince Libardi at Renegades Extreme Fighting on October 20.
The official cause of death reported by the medical examiner's office was complications from blunt trauma to the head with subdural hemorrhage.
Despite two surgeries and prompt medical care, Vasquez was unable to recover after being knocked out in the third round. He was admitted to St. Joseph Medical Center and eventually transferred to an area hospice on November 26.
Subdural hemorrhage is considered a rare injury in sports - even in boxing. Steve Sievert has some interesting facts in his article from an orthopedic surgeon regarding this particular injury.
Here's a snip:
"This type of injury is common in the 'regular world,' say when a person falls and hits their head...but in combat sports, this injury is very, very rare...I'll give you a for instance...(Boxers) Kelly Pavlik and Jermain Taylor fought in February. It went 12 rounds, and Kelly Pavlik landed, I believe, 278 blows to the head, and Jermain Taylor landed 164 blows to the head. At UFC 82, (Cheick) Kongo versus (Heath) Herring - which they are both known to be standup guys - six head blows between the two of them. You just don't have that accumulation of head blows in MMA."
While there were some initial questions as to the pre-fight health of Sam Vasquez and his ability to compete, an investigation revealed that Vasquez, as well as veteran promoter Saul Soliz, had completed the necessary licensing requirements required to participate and that everything was done by the book.
It's an unfortunate turn of events for a sport that is still blossoming, but I certainly wouldn't call this a black-eye on MMA itself.
There was nothing out of the ordinary during the fight between Vasquez and Libardi. No stomps to the head, no late stoppages, just a competitive match with a tragic ending. That is the risk that all fighters must burden themselves with before each fight.
That is why at the very core of this sport, every competitor that steps into a cage or ring deserves a certain level of respect.
They deserve it from the fans, the promoters - and from each other.
Vasquez is survived by his wife Sandra and a seven-year old son. Anyone interested in contributing to the memorial fund that will help them financially should use this address:
TEXAS MMA FIGHT SHOP
c/o Sandra Vasquez
5720 Mobud Drive
San Antonio, Texas 78238