The High-Tech Texan Blog

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Houston-based MMA Fighter Dies

Get prepped for several days of sports talk and columnist shouting matches about the safety of mixed martial arts (i.e. UFC). And the story will have a Houston dateline.

Sam Vasquez, who was stopped by Vince Libardi on Oct. 20 at the Toyota Center, died Friday at the age of 35. Vasquez is the first to die in a regulated MMA match. After enduring separate surgeries to remove blood clots from his brain as well as a massive stroke, Vasquez was discharged from downtown Houston's Saint Joseph Medical Center Critical Care Unit and transferred to an area hospice on Nov. 26.

According to
Vasquez, who was licensed to compete by the Texas Boxing and Wrestling Program, took rapid combinations and a hard right punch to the chin from Libardi (4-3) in the third round.

In his third professional fight -- each of which were promoted by Saul Soliz, a veteran trainer who has worked with several UFC champions and a host of local Texas fighters, including the fallen Vasquez -- the referee allowed Vasquez (1-2) to stand after he was dropped. When the fighter subsequently collapsed the bout was called. Repeated attempts to reach Soliz for comment went unreturned.

Eight minutes elapsed while Texas-mandated EMTs attended to the
incapacitated Vasquez, who was eventually placed onto a stretcher and supported with a neck brace. His exit from the arena to Saint Joseph Medical Center was marked with a slight, occasional seizure visible to the cage-side audience. Vasquez's hospital stay was first complicated by what doctors called a large "acute clot" that formed within the brain and required surgery on Nov. 4 to relieve pressure.

The first clot was not a result of the initial injury Vasquez suffered,
said his wife, Sandra. A "rare" second clot developed soon afterwards, said Vasquez's doctor, demanding another invasive procedure. Listed in critical condition, the fighter was placed in a medically induced coma after suffering a stroke on Nov. 9 that prompted Vasquez's family to contact LifeGift, an organ donation center.

Like in the case of Dedge, concerns about Vasquez's pre-fight health have surfaced. At his age, Vasquez would have been required to undergo extensive pre-fight medical screening to gain a license in Texas.

Steve Bruno, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, said federal laws prohibit his agency from disclosing particular information regarding a fighter's application.

Prior to Vasquez's death, Bruno said the state has no plans for any sort of moratorium on mixed martial arts competition.
I emailed my friend Steve Sievert who covers MMA for the Chronicle for comments. Here is a link to his story about Vasquez's injuries in the Nov. 26, 2007, column.

I don't understand the sport too much but I do know how popular it is. Boxing matches seem to be a thing of the past as MMA provides fans with an all-out combat featuring a wide variety of fighting techniques like striking and grappling.

If past stories of sports-related deaths hold true this time, expect MMA and leagues like the UFC to gain more exposure and popularity. As tragic as the death of racing legend Dale Earnhardt was, NASCAR has increased in popularity since his Daytona Speedway accident in 2001.

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