Justin Thornton, 38, a bare-knuckle boxer with a 6-18 career MMA record, has died six weeks after a brutal first round knockout. Thornton was fighting in an official Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship event in Biloxi, Miss., when he was defeated in just 19 seconds by opponent Dillon Cleckler.
Thornton was taken directly to the hospital following the fight and was placed on a ventilator, where he seemed to be making a recovery. His personal Facebook page suggested that he suffered a spinal cord injury and was dealing with infections, but was awake and able to watch television and talk with family. Thornton passed away on October 4 after six weeks in the hospital.
In response to Thornton’s passing, many fans and media around the sport are in disbelief that the BKFC promotion sanctioned the fight at all. Not only did Thornton have a losing record and was facing a fighter who was 11-1 at the time of the fight, but he had also suffered five consecutive first-round defeats leading up to the deadly final match.
The BKFC President Dave Feldman issued a statement regarding Thornton’s death.
“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.”