A bare knuckle fighter has died in hospital six weeks after a brutal 19-second knockout left him partially paralyzed.
Justin Thornton, 38, was taking part in the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship 20 in Biloxi, Mississippi on August 20 when he sustained a brutal KO defeat. His opponent Dillon Cleckler caught him with a right punch just 19 seconds into the first round, sending him face-first to the canvas, before the referee ended the fight.
According to his Facebook page, where a GoFundMe was set up shortly after the fight, he was taken straight to hospital and was partially paralyzed and put on a ventilator for several weeks.
In the message, posted by his girlfriend Amber Willard, it was revealed in September that he was ‘on ivs for infection in his lungs and medication for his spinal cord injury’ but was able to ‘watch his favorite tv shows and movies and make jokes’.
It has now been confirmed that Thornton succumbed to his injuries on October 4, six weeks after the bout.
In a statement to MMA Fighting, BKFC president Dave Feldman said. ‘This morning we were very saddened to be notified of the passing of one of our fighters, Justin Thornton, who competed at BKFC 20 on August 20, 2021.
‘We join the rest of the combat sports community in sending our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.’
Thornton had a 6-18 record in his MMA career, and had previously fought several recognisable names, including UFC heavyweights Chase Sherman and Walt Harris, as well as Contender Series veterans Michael Lombardo and Austen Lane.
In response to Thornton’s death, many around combat sports are criticizing promoters and sanctioning bodies for using Thornton, who had suffered five consecutive first-round defeats before his fatal bout.