Funeral services are scheduled today for a Sturgis man who died one week after competing in a mixed martial arts competition at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City.
Dustin Jenson, 26, was participating in full-contact fights at a RingWars event May 18 when he tapped out — a signal to end the fight. According to his mother-in-law, Violet Schieman, Jensen then watched the next two fights before going to the locker room area, where he suffered a seizure.
"He laid down to do his stretches, and another fighter heard a moan," Schieman said. "He went over and saw Dustin having a seizure. They called an EMT, which took him to Rapid City Regional Hospital."
Schieman said medical personnel determined that Jenson had increased pressure on his brain and put him in a medically induced coma before surgery was performed to relieve pressure. He was declared dead May 24 and was taken off life support the next day, Schieman said.
"He did not wake up after the surgery and was declared brain dead at 10:23 a.m.,” she said. “He remained on life support until his organs were donated."
Jenson, a husband and a father, was participating in only his fifth fight since taking up the sport less than a year ago.
His funeral service is scheduled for 2 p.m. today at First Wesleyan Church in Sturgis. An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday.
Schieman, who was not at the fight, said her daughter, Jenson’s wife Rebecca Jenson, and several others told her the violence in the fight was "nothing out of the ordinary."
"Doctors have watched the video and said it shouldn't have happened," Schieman said. "They said the fight may have triggered a brain aneurysm, but it was not overly violent."
Civic center general manager Brian Maliske said Tuesday that he knew that one of the fighters had become ill after tapping out of his fight, but that was the extent of his knowledge of what happened.
Maliske said he was unsure how or if the death would affect the scheduling of future MMA events at the civic center.
"Obviously, if it is connected to the injury here, then we will have to look at and see how it would affect us and what we want to do into the future," he said.
Maliske said this is the first significant incident outside of a broken arm he was aware that occurred at a RingWars event at the civic center.
"We have had to have a couple of people transported to the hospital before, but to my knowledge, we have not had any serious injuries," he said.
MMA is a full-contact combat sport that allows the use of striking and grappling techniques, standing as well as on the ground. It can take place in a ring or a cage that is often eight-sided. Victory in a match is usually gained either by the judges' decision after time expires, a stoppage by the referee or fight doctor, a submission or by knockout.
Maliske said the event was promoted by Matt DeWolfe, who did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment. RingWars formerly was a regular event at the civic center but has become less frequent in recent years.
"Matt used to be here on a monthly basis several years ago, and right now, he does approximately one to two RingWars events here a year," Maliske said. "This is the first time he has been in in nine or 10 months. The sport itself is not as popular as it used to be."
South Dakota has no governing body to oversee or regulate the sport, unlike other states, according to Josh Usera, the lead MMA trainer at Dynamic Martial Arts in Rapid City.
"In most states there is usually some kind of governing body, like the athletic commission or the boxing commission for that state, and what I understand is its job is to oversee the operations of the event from the ground all the way up," said Usera, who has trained MMA fighters. "Safety of the fighter is the No. 1 concern, so most states that have some kind of governing body require some kind of blood work or something that shows the individual is healthy."