MMA Fighter Michael Kirkham Dies After Professional Debut

| by Alex Groberman

MMA fighter Michael Kirkham died early Monday, two days after his professional debut. The lightweight brawler known as “Tree” because of his imposing 6-foot-9 presence, fought Saturday on a card in Aiken, South Carolina.

Kirkham appeared at the “Confrontation at the Convocation Center” event promoted by Dash Entertainment and King MMA. The event was regulated by the South Carolina Athletic Commission.

"Obviously our thoughts and prayers are with his family, other than that I have no comment," Sam King, a promoter of Saturday's card, told

It was first reported by WRDW in Augusta that Kirkham was transported to Aiken Regional Medical Center after the fight. It was confirmed by the eventual coroner that Kirkham was unconscious from the end of the fight all the way up to Monday morning.

On Monday morning he was pronounced dead as a result of brain hemorrhaging.

The South Carolina Athletic Commission requires that all MMA fighters submit an original or certified lab report indicating that the competitor is HIV, Hepatitis B and C negative. Further, the fighter must complete an ophthalmologic exam and a physical by a doctor.

Kirkham is the second fighter to die from causes related to a regulated MMA fight in the United States. The first known death in a regulated event occurred with Sam Vasquez on November 30, 2007. Vasquez was in a coma for 42 days after the fight in October before eventually passing away.

Kirkham was 30 years old at the time of his death.