Autopsy results released in MMA fighter's death - - Columbia, South Carolina

Autopsy results released in MMA fighter's death

Michael Kirkham during a MMA event in April 2010 Michael Kirkham during a MMA event in April 2010

By Jackie Faye - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (AP) - A Gaston man who died from injuries suffered in his professional Mixed Martial Arts debut died due to bleeding inside the brain, according to the coroner.

Aiken County Coroner Tim Carlton said Tuesday Michael Kirkham died from a subarachnoid hemorrhage of the brain due to the injuries and blows to the head he received during an MMA match Saturday night. Toxicology is pending and the manner of death has been ruled as accidental.

Carlton said Kirkham collapsed following Saturday night's fight at the USC Aiken Convocation Center. According to Carlton, Kirkham, nicknamed "Tree" because he is 6 feet, 9 inches tall, was taken to Aiken Regional Medical Center and never regained consciousness.

Kirkham had fought six times as an amateur before fighting as a professional, according to Carlton.

South Carolina law had prevented organized MMA-style competition until last summer, when state legislators approved a measure allowing the South Carolina Athletic Commission to regulate fights.

"I had two of my guys working as corners for him because he didn't have anybody with him," said Mark Mills, chief instructor at Columbia Martial Arts and Fitness.
Mills says injuries in the sport are rare and death is almost unheard of, but he emphasizes proper training is key. "You don't just want to have guys come in and start slamming each other," Mills said.

It's easy to tell from Kirkham's Facebook page that martial arts was his life, and he was excited about going pro. Kirkham's family said he would train in his yard in Gaston, even tie punching bags to a tree. That's something Mills doesn't recommend. "Definitely do not be out in backyards or in basements and stuff like that," said Mills.

Even though some of Mills' fighters were within feet of Kirkham when he collapsed, he says they're going to keep fighting. "This is something these guys train to do, it's something they love to do," Mills said. "It's part of their life for most of them and none of my guys are going to stop, that's for sure."

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this report.

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