Depending on who you ask, Friday night was a great night for Bellator MMA. The promotion has struggled to gain any kind of significant traction for years and has lived in the very dark and long shadow of the UFC for its entire existence. So it was good news indeed when the ratings came in for their big Kimbo Slice vs Dada 5000 fight:a record 2.5 million people tuned in to see the backyard brawlers duke it out, making it the second most watched MMA fight on television in the past five years.
The bad news: Dada 5000, whose real name is Dhafir Harris, had to be stretchered out of the cage and later suffered heart and renal failure in the hospital. According to his family, he had extreme levels of potassium in his system as a result of a 40 pound weight cut to hit the 265 pound heavyweight limit.
We know about this not because Bellator notified the press but because the press found out through sources close to Dada5000. Bellator didn’t bother to officially acknowledge Dhafir’s near death experience until Monday afternoon when Bellator president Scott Coker tweeted an update:
That may have been in response to a rant from veteran MMA journalist Ariel Helwani, who took to his popular show The MMA Hour to castigate Bellator for not bothering to keep anyone informed of the situation.
“Dada 5000 … went into cardiac arrest according to multiple sources, multiple outlets reporting this after the fact. Had to be resussitated. Do we understand what that means? The man’s heart stopped. And now here we are 60 hours later and I have tried multiple times – multiple times – to reach out to people at Bellator. To ask them for an update on Dada5000. Where is this man? Is he in a hospital? Is he out of the hospital? Is he okay? Is he not okay? I can’t get an answer! That to me is unfathomable.
“A man’s heart stopped after an MMA fight and to say now that we’re holding [Bellator] to a different standard is irresponsible on our part. That event on friday night will have been seen, when its all said and done , by more people than any other cable TV or free UFC event this year. Throw in pay-per-view as well, the number’s going to be great. So it’s not fair. There’s a responsibility involved there. When you’re putting on a fight in front of that many eyeballs, there is a responsibility involved.
“And I was told ‘Well, we put out a statement.’ You put out a statement on Saturday afternoon. It did not even address the heart. That was 48 hours ago. Where’s the update? You have a responsibility: to your organization, to your viewers at home, to the media, to tell us how this man is feeling. This isn’t a broken leg. This isn’t a fractured orbital, which by the way it appears he suffered as well. This is a heart stopping.”
There’s a couple of ways to look at the situation. One is that unlike the UFC, Bellator doesn’t have dozens of full time employees working every angle, so things like keeping the media updated are sometimes missed. A more cynical take is the folks at Bellator and SpikeTV cared more about putting out press releases celebrating the ratings Dada 5000 pulled for them than following up on his health.
It’s hard to know what happened and how closely Bellator was attending to the near death of one of their fighters. But whatever they did, they’ve done a terrible job of keeping everyone informed … and still haven’t really acknowledged how close to tragedy things came, or what they’re going to do in the future to avoid another incident.