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Monday, December 3, 2007

First Fatality in MMA


Sammy Vasquez, 35, Becomes MMA’s First Documented Fatality

By Anthony Armstrong

The Harris County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed today that Samuel Vasquez, a 35-year-old mixed martial artist from Houston, Texas, died on Friday, Nov. 30. A representative for the Joseph A. Jachimczyk Forensics Center verified the time of death at 8:15 p.m. CST. Vasquez’s death appears to be the first documented fatality resulting from a regulated MMA fight.

Vasquez (1-2) suffered a third-round knockout loss to Vince Libardi (4-3) during a Renegades Extreme Fighting bout on Oct. 20 at Houston’s Toyota Center. After the fight, Vasquez was taken to Saint Joseph Medical Center’s Critical Care Unit, where he began a 47-day struggle.

The official cause of Vasquez’s death has not been released, pending a determination from the medical examiner.

During his hospitalization, Vasquez’s wife, Sandra, is believed to have documented his status on a public comment board at She reportedly wrote that Vasquez underwent surgery to remove a blood clot that was not a result of the initial injury. This has led to speculation that Vasquez may have had a pre-existing condition.

According to the comments posted, Vasquez then suffered a second blood clot, fluid on his brain, brain swelling and a massive stroke that induced a coma.

The Vasquez family has not spoken directly to the press.

According to a report by, Vasquez had been released to an area hospice on Nov. 29. Hospice care is traditionally provided for patients who have been given six months or less to live.

Paul Erickson, owner of, photographed the event in which Vasquez was injured.

“There was nothing out of the ordinary,” Erickson said. “They scrambled and hit the cage. Sammy stood up and looked a little wobbly. Then he when down again and the referee called the doctor in. It didn’t seem like any was out of the ordinary. Sammy was winded and looked exhausted, but he wasn’t unconscious when they carried him out [on a stretcher]. Everyone was puzzled at the time because no one could tell when or where he was injured.”

Erickson, who has trained in and covered Texas MMA since 1997, also observed that “the cage was properly padded and reinforced, everything was inspected before the fights started, and there were no illegal moves or strikes. This is the frustrating part, in that there’s no easy explanation.”

In the sport’s 14-year history in the United States, there had been no serious life-threatening injuries. The only reported death occurred internationally at a non-regulated event in the Ukraine in 1998 after American Doug Dedge passed out shortly following his bout. Following his death, unsubstantiated reports claimed Dedge had a pre-existing medical condition.

In a previous interview, Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation representative Greg Alvarez said the TDLR was monitoring Vasquez’s condition closely. “If Sammy’s condition takes a turn for the worse,” Alvarez said, “we will investigate [the incident] further.”

Alvarez had also stated that TDLR ensured all of the regulations, licensing and safety checklists were adhered to but had been reluctant to talk about the night Vasquez was critically injured.

Renegades Extreme Fighting is owned and promoted by Saul Soliz, a longtime striking coach to Tito Ortiz and Ricco Rodriguez and well respected figure in the MMA community. Renegades has held 23 events to date. Soliz has not returned repeated calls for comment.

In her last purported posting on Nov. 17, Vasquez’s wife stated, “I do not hold anyone responsible for what has happened, and I know in my heart that Sammy doesn’t either ... Please do not speculate as to what, when, where, who or how. It’s part of life, things happen.”

Vasquez is survived by his wife, Sandra, and 7-year-old son.

POSTED -- 12/01/07

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