Mixed martial arts is a dangerous sport, and sometimes it’s even deadly.
CJ Hancock, a 32-year-old Texas MMA fighter, knows that better than most: He says he died during a cage fight last week.
But don’t worry — he’s getting better.
“I died tonight in the cage,” Hancock posted on Facebook on Nov. 4. “My heart stopped, and I had kidney failure.”
Hancock had been fighting in one of the early rounds of a Legacy Fighting Alliance mixed martial arts competition in Texas. When he collapsed during his cage fight at Houston’s Arena Theatre, paramedics rushed up to him, according to the Guardian.
“They did CPR and hit me with the defibrillator twice and brought me back,” Hancock wrote on Facebook.
He was taken to the hospital, where eight bags of saline got him back up to 206 pounds, according to Sports Illustrated. Hancock had weighed in at 170.5 pounds on Thursday, the day before the fight.
On Nov. 5, Hancock followed up with more progress: “Feeling much better,” he wrote. “Just got home from the hospital.”
With its brutal and bloody combat done hand-to-hand, foot-to-face or beyond, MMA has earned a reputation as a risky sport. But in reality, MMA is probably safer than boxing, according to a 2015 University of Alberta study. It just looks worse to the untrained eye, the study found.
“Most of the blood you see in mixed martial arts is from bloody noses or facial cuts,” Shelby Karpman, a sports medicine physician and the study’s lead author, said in a statement — and that means an MMA injury “looks a lot worse than it actually is.”
That’s led to stigma around the sport, which does more harm to MMA fighters than good, Karpman said.
“These guys do not get the respect they deserve for what they're doing — or the medical treatment — because the medical community doesn't want to deal with such a bloody sport with head injuries and concussions,” Karpman said in a statement.
For some, experiencing death firsthand might be enough to call it quits.
But Hancock doesn't plan on giving up competitive pursuits altogether, he told KTRK.
“I still plan on competing, but I probably won't be fighting anymore, and that was my dream, and now it's gone, and that was stupid,” Hancock told KTRK.
Legacy Fighting Alliance CEO Ed Soares told the Guardian said Hancock fell and sustained his injuries after his competitor, Charlie Ontiveros, hit him with a body kick.
“After the kick landed, there was a few second delay, and then he collapsed in the cage,” Soares told the Guardian. “They were able to resuscitate and stabilize CJ and took him to the hospital via ambulance where they determined he had suffered kidney failure.”
Hancock says that he may be able pinpoint the problem, according to KTRK. Looking back, he saw the warning signs as he tried to cut his weight before the competition.
“There were a couple of times when I came out of the sauna, I was lightheaded and dizzy and I felt like I was going to vomit, but there was nothing in my stomach,” Hancock said. “And I knew there was something wrong, but I just thought I could handle it.”
Hancock has thanked his friends and family for supporting him over the last several days. He called his situation a “miracle.”