Justin Thornton Succumbs To Injuries Sustained From BKFC Debut, Committee Urges Participants To ‘Proceed With Caution’

Heavyweight Justin Thornton has died after suffering a partial paralysis following loss to Dillon Cleckler in August in Mississippi.

Thornton was reportedly battling infection from a spinal cord injury. This was the debut fight for 38-year-old MMA veteran at the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.

BKFC President Dave Feldman confirmed Thornton’s demise after a month-long fight with injuries.

“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,” the president said. “We join the rest of the combat sports community in sending our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.”

In a statement written Tuesday, the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) medical advisory committee advise those who regulate bare-knuckle fighting to “proceed with caution.” The committee added there is “limited data regarding the medical risks of the combat sport.”

Bare-knuckle fighting is boxing without boxing gloves or other padding on the fighters’ hands. This is sometimes referred to as “illegal boxing.” The difference between this sport and street fighting is the latter has an accepted set of rules.

Thornton had a 6-18 record in pro MMA before he landed his BKFC contract. Meanwhile, Cleckler was 11-1 walking to the heavyweight bout. It looked like a complete mismatch on paper and all it took Cleckler was a single haymaker to knock out Thornton.

The promotion is under criticism on social media where users are urging the authorities concerned to ban BKFC.

The Thornton vs Cleckler bout was a rematch. They had already appeared in an MMA fight in 2013 where Cleckler aced the matchup.

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