Bare-knuckle fighter Justin Thornton passed away just weeks after his KO loss at a BKFC event, but Dana White isn’t surprised to hear about the tragic news
UFC president Dana White was upset but unsurprised to hear about the tragic passing of bare-knuckle fighter Justin Thornton.
Thornton passed away at the age of 38 just weeks after his 19-second knockout loss to Dillon Cleckler at a Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship event.
The experienced heavyweight was seemingly unresponsive on the mat for several minutes, reportedly being hospitalised and put on a ventilator afterwards.
Thornton suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of the knockout loss and was partially paralysed before sadly passing away, according to his personal Facebook page.
And talking after Tuesday night’s Contender Series, White said he isn’t a fan of MMA fighters transitioning to bare-knuckle boxing.
He said: “First of all, is anybody shocked? I mean, in bare-knuckle fighting? I’m not a big fan. And I get, I guess I would call it concerned, when I see some of our people when they leave here and go there. It’s like, oh my God.
“But when you look at this, we’ve been putting on fights for 25 years. I’ve done over 7,000 fights with no serious injuries in the UFC.”
“Every year we spend over $20 million on athletic medical — $20 million a year — health and wellness or whatever it may be. And 25 percent of our athletes, we send to specialists.”
The rise of bare-knuckle boxing in the past few years has seen former UFC fighters such as Paige VanZant, Rachael Ostovich and Chad Mendes transition to the sport.
BKFC have faced criticism for their matchmaking as Thornton – who had lost five consecutive fights – was fighting Clecker who is 10-1 in MMA and unbeaten since 2015.
And White continued by explaining the strict pre-fight screening UFC fighters undergo that other promotions don’t have in place.
He said: “So a guy will come and his brain test won’t come out, it’ll be irregular, so we send him to a specialist. If something was irregular with his heart, he or she goes and sees a heart specialist, we spend the money to find out whatever is wrong with them.
“And as a result of that, our pre-fight screening, throughout the last 20 years we found 10 athletes that had life-threatening medical problems with them and career-ending, that they shouldn’t be fighting.
“That if they weren’t in the UFC, they probably would’ve fought and they probably would’ve died. So we shouldn’t even be talked about in the same sentence as bare-knuckle boxing.
“It’s two completely different worlds. yes, we’re very sorry to hear that this guy passed away, but you’re never going to see any of these other organizations doing the type of health and safety and medical testing that we do for our athletes.”