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What Happens If A UFC Fighter Kills Their Opponent In A Fight?

An mma fighter punches toward the camera during training.

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Mixed martial arts first promoted by the UFC, is amongst the toughest and most violent sports in the world. And as a result, there have been some recorded cases, all be it very few. Of MMA fighters being killed inside the cage. But what if a UFC fighter kills their opponent during a fight?

Fights are sanctioned, meaning they are covered under the law of the jurisdiction in which they take place. This means that should they follow the rules dictated, the fight and the fighters involved are covered and will not face prosecution if any death occurs.

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As combat sports are amongst the oldest activities in the world. Down through the years, there have been many recorded deaths. And while the sport of mixed martial arts is relatively new, less than thirty years at this point.

It too has seen several fighters die during or shortly after their fight. And although not nearly at the same rate as it’s a close relative to the sport of boxing. Unfortunately, they still do occur.

So the issue then arises as to how liable is a UFC fighter if they were to kill their opponent. And it’s not a simple, yes or no, as it all depends on the circumstances involved and whether or not the fight was run in accordance with the rules set out.

How Might A Fighter Be Prosecuted

As mentioned previously, each and every sanctioned fight must follow a strict set of rules and regulations. In terms of the fight itself, only certain moves or actions are allowed during the fight.

So those who are deemed illegal may result in the fight stopped, with a fighter’s disqualification. Or in a worst-case scenario and a fighter dies as the result of an illegal strike or action. That fighter will most likely be prosecuted and end up in court.

Chaos Colby Covington is frisked outside the octagon.
UFC welterweight fighter Colby Covington.

Sanctioned MMA fights allow for a very specific amount of violence to be inflicted. So once a fighter steps outside the bounds of the predefined set of rules. They have effectively opened themselves up to whatever punishment deemed necessary under the law, based on what had occurred.

And down through the years, there have been several prosecutions in combat sports for illegal activity. Including fighters and trainers tampering with the gloves before a boxing fight. Or low blows or eye gouges which were sometimes not seen by the referee.

And while there have been several deaths in MMA. There have not been any prosecutions for the fighters involved. As there was no illegal activity involved in the match and the fighter succumbed to the injuries they received during a sanctioned bout.

If however, the fighter had used some illegal strikes like a twelve to six elbow, which is banned in the UFC. Or a kick to the downed opponent which is also banned in the UFC. The fighter involved would then be liable for the results of their illegal actions.

Has Anyone Died In A UFC Fight

The short answer to this is no. The Ultimate Fighting Championships has not experienced the death of any of its competitors. Either during or after a fight as a result of damage taken during the bout.

This does not mean that there are no examples of fighters displaying signs of neurological issues. From the extensive and repeated blows to the head taken during their career. Which at a later point can lead to a shortened lifespan.

A good example of this would be former UFC fighter “Big Daddy” Gary Goodridge. Who now suffers from a debilitating condition called CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), leading to a far lower quality of life. Something we see all too often from former fighters in almost all combat sports.

UFC heavyweight Fabricio Werdum receiving a terrible eye poke.
Fabricio Werdum gets a finger in his eye.

But in terms of fatality, this has not occurred in the UFC. And that is no doubt in part due to the extreme safety measures undertaken to protect fighters. And these include:

  • All fighters being tested for performance-enhancing drugs
  • Fighters have regular health checks to ensure they are physically fit to partake in the sport
  • Medical staff on standby to assess fighters before, during and after a fight
  • Quality referees who have been trained and have an extensive history of good decisions in the sport.


As we can see from the extensive information provided. UFC fighters are not liable if they kill their opponent during a fight. As providing they stay within the ruleset of the bout. They are protected by the sanctioning body and law of the land.

If a party believes that there is any reason to doubt the rules or regulations for the event were broken. Then they may indeed decide there is a case to be answered by bringing those involved to a court of law.

In short, if a UFC fighter follows the rules they will not be prosecuted. Which I am sure is a reassuring feeling for all those involved. As in the sport of MMA, anything can happen at any given time. In the most exciting and exhilarating combat sport on the planet.