clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Video: Current and former UFC fighters speak out against coach Duke Roufus after fighter's tragic death

After the details of the death of a young Roufusport kickboxer making his amateur debut have emerged, numerous fighters have come out of the woodwork to blast Duke Roufus and his camp.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Back on March 29, 2014, a young kickboxer named Dennis Munson Jr. died after collapsing in the ring during his amateur debut. This was obviously a tragedy, but just recently (Sat., Nov. 15), a long-form article was published in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel detailing what appear to be numerous failures by the ringside doctors, event staff, coaches and others that contributed to the young man's death.

It's an incredibly detailed article that goes in depth into how nearly everything went wrong for Munson that night.

It started with same-day weigh ins, a practice generally discouraged because the body doesn't have time to rehydrate properly from cutting weight. Munson's brother, Derrick, also claims that his brother stated he was thirsty, yet he can't recall him drinking water that day. On the night Munson died, the officials reportedly failed to intervene at key moments as he exhibited what a dozen independent experts who reviewed a video of the fight say were obvious signs of distress.

Several said the fight should have been stopped.

Even after Munson collapsed, care was delayed by a disagreement over treatment, hang-ups exiting the building and confusion about ambulance care. Skilled paramedics were waved off and Munson was taken to a nearby regular hospital, instead of Milwaukee's Level One trauma center.

The article also points out conflicts of interest in the promotion itself, the Duke Roufus-owned and Roufus-run North American Fighting Championship (NAFC). The ringside doctor, Carlos Feliciano, is a member of Roufus' gym.

Long-time NAFC referee Al Wichgers also had the following statement:

Wichgers also told police that his three priorities in the fight were fighter safety, fairness and "entertainment of the audience."

Counsel for New Jersey Athletic Commission (NJAC), Nick Lembo, had this to say regarding that last bit:

"That shouldn't even enter their mind. The referee is there as the policeman, is there to ensure fairness, to call fouls, to have consistency of the match rules, and the referee's main purpose is the first line of defense for the safety of the competitor."

Keep in mind that the NJAC is widely considered to be the best in all of combat sports and this event was an unregulated affair in Wisconsin.

It's important to remember that the corner has to be responsible for the fighter's well-being. With that in your consciousness, this particular line is more than troubling:

Quitting is not an option for Roufusport fighters, Munson's teammates said.

"There is a lot of pressure to win," said fighter Amanda Johnson. "They are very concerned about their reputation. We fight till we collapse, and that's exactly what he did."

The end of the fight is absurdly worrisome (7:35) and this video documents the entire tragedy:

Munson died shortly after midnight in Sinai Medical Center and according to the autopsy report (read it here), his death was ruled accidental by way of "blunt force injuries of the head."

With the publication of that article, former Roufusport fighter and The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20 contestant Rose Namajunas went after Roufus and his gym on social media, posting numerous allegations from other fighters of awful training stories at the hands of Roufus and striking coach Scott Cushman.

She would also eventually chime in on the Underground thread revolving around it, despite the standard nonsense that revolves in those forums bashing her.

From the fourth page:

My motives are for preventing another death. I knew they are hard on us and I grew up with sexual abuse and molestation all my life so what I dealt with at the time was nothing compared to that. But after seeing the video and learning more about this situation yes it takes a death to say something.

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight and middleweight Eric Schafer -- who happened to be the head grappling coach as well as a fighter out of Roufusport -- chimed in as well, calling Roufus a "bully, liar and one of the worst people he ever met."

Check it out:

Duke Roufus is a bully, a liar, and one of the worst people I have ever met. I have never been in a more toxic environment than when I was the head grappling coach and fighter at the gym. I saw teammate after teammate getting treated like shit. Guys being told to beat up lower level guys that were just trying to help out, UFC fighters being told to beat up other UFC level fighters so they would not come back, verbal abuse, violence, guys getting lied to about fights, etc. I have messages and conversations with almost everyone of his fighters from my days there; from his UFC stars to his coaching staff about how much they were mistreated. I will not out them, but they know the truth. They can tell their tales if they want.

I was offered a fight on his card and told my manager that, "I personally would not ever fight for him." so a when a few of my young fighters were scheduled to fight on his show (which I did not like, but he is the big local promoter), he decided to cancel their fights 2 weeks before the event. He wrote me a letter (which I kept) saying they were not welcome because I did not respect him. I said that I actually understand that, but I wish he wouldn't have scheduled them in the first place and screwed them over. A year later the matchmaker came out and asked for forgiveness and said that we can at least have a business relationship. I said I didn't trust Duke, but the other coaches wanted our guys on the card, I reluctantly agreed. Once again, he cancelled our fights a few weeks before to spite me.

Retired amateur fighter Ryan Williams, who claims to have been a Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach there, chimed in on the next page, stating he "agreed with and witnessed everything they said."

Tangentially related, Roufusport fighters have the highest rate of injury among camps with a 16.6-percent withdrawal due to injury rate, according to a study just two weeks ago.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Mania Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Mania