Dana White saddened but ‘not surprised’ to hear about death of bare-knuckle fighter Justin Thornton


UFC chief Dana White saddened but ‘not surprised’ to hear about death of bare-knuckle fighter Justin Thornton as he reveals his safety concerns about the sport which left 38-year-old partially paralysed before he died

UFC supremo Dana White has revealed his safety concerns about the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship and says he wasn’t ‘shocked’ to hear of a death in the sport this week.

American Justin Thornton, 38, died in hospital this week, six weeks after a brutal 19-second knockout which left him on a ventilator in hospital.  

While White was saddened to hear the news, he admits it didn’t come as a surprise given the lacklustre safety of the sport. 

Justin Thornton has died six weeks after he was brutally knocked out in a bare-knuckle fight

According to his Facebook page, where a GoFundMe was set up shortly after the fight, Thornton was taken straight to hospital and was partially paralyzed and put on a ventilator

According to his Facebook page, where a GoFundMe was set up shortly after the fight, Thornton was taken straight to hospital and was partially paralyzed and put on a ventilator

Dana White has admitted he is not shocked to see that a bare-knuckle fighter has died

Dana White has admitted he is not shocked to see that a bare-knuckle fighter has died

‘First of all, is anybody shocked?’ he said. ‘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.’

The likes of Paige VanZant, Rachael Ostovich and Chad Mendes have all moved across from the UFC into bare-knuckle fighting, a sport which has risen dramatically in popularity over the past few years.

Since the news of Thornton’s death on Tuesday, questions have been raised over the matchmaking in the GBFC, with many insisting a fighter with a 6-18 record should not have come up against Dillon Cleckler, who is 10-1 in MMA and unbeaten since 2015. Cleckler had also previously knocked Thornton out.

The veteran fighter, who succumbed to his injuries on Tuesday, suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of the KO, and was partially paralysed, according to a statement from his girlfriend on his personal Facebook page.   

Thornton is seen hitting the floor after being knocked out inside 20 seconds of the fight

Thornton is seen hitting the floor after being knocked out inside 20 seconds of the fight

‘Sincere condolences to the family of Justin Thornton,’ tweeted boxing promoter Lou DiBella. ‘This fatal night was his SIXTH CONSECUTIVE FIRST ROUND STOPPAGE. The 38 year old survived the first five. The state of combat sports regulation in America is atrocious.’

‘THEY BOOKED A MISMATCH BETWEEN AN 11-1 FIGHTER VS A 6-18 FIGHTER AND THIS IS THE RESULT,’ tweeted one fan, referring to the promoter, BKFC. ‘Their license should be revoked.’ 

UFC chief White has been quick to insist that his own promotion is worlds away from bare-knuckle fighting, with stringent safety measures in place.  

‘We’ve been putting on fights for 25 years, he added. ‘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.

White was quick to explain the stringent safety measures in place across the UFC

White was quick to explain the stringent safety measures in place across the UFC

White says the UFC spend over $20million a year on medical fees for their fighters

White says the UFC spend over $20million a year on medical fees for their fighters

‘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 organisations doing the type of health and safety and medical testing that we do for our athletes.’