João Carvalho beaten to death in MMA fight

João Carvalho beaten to death

João Carvalho was beaten to death.

This is not a judgement-filled statement. This is simply a fact.  João Carvalho died a violent death at the hands of another man.

It’s true that the man who killed him did not intend to do so and it’s also true that João Carvalho was himself a willing participant in the fight that ended his life, but we could say that about many confrontations outside nightclubs at three in the morning.

How many men (and it always seems to be men) have died as a result of a punch to the head ? How many men, and again it always seems to be men, have faced manslaughter charges for giving in to an impulse we might all have, both men and women? Who hasn’t, at some time in their lives, wanted to punch somebody in the face?

As a human being I’m not free of that impulse and although I have never done it, I know what the urge feels like.

I have witnessed mindless violence. I have seen people being kicked in the head by other people who are entirely oblivious to the potential consequences of their actions, and it has always sickened me because I do not like violence. I recoil from physical assaults against people or against animals and therefore I have never liked cage fighting but of course my personal squeamishness should never count for anything.

So what if I don’t like it? There are many other things in our society that would have to be banned if we allowed people’s personal likes and dislikes to dictate how we run our country. Hardly a year ago, we legalised same-sex marriage despite the outrage of those who didn’t like the idea, and that’s how we should operate a civilised democracy. So I won’t be calling for a ban on mixed martial arts.

I won’t be calling for anything, in fact.

All I’ll be saying here, like it or not, is that one man beat another man to death in the National Stadium in front of a cheering crowd. And I’ll be saying that I don’t like the idea of hitting your opponent when he’s down. I didn’t like it when Conor McGregor punched José Aldo in the head after knocking him down, even though it’s permitted in the rules of MMA. I like it even less when I hear that Charlie Ward had the opportunity to punch João Carvalho in the head nine times as he lay on the floor before the referee intervened.

It might be in the rules, but perhaps the rules are the problem. Perhaps the rules are simply a codification of the fight outside the nightclub. Perhaps the problem is within us, since so many of us are willing to condone and even enjoy practices that at one time would have been considered beneath contempt.

Kicking in the head and punching on the floor, I don’t like them. That sort of thing is not how I was brought up and if you don’t like my opinion, you can call me old-fashioned.

In this instance, I’ll be proud to wear that badge.

I don’t want to see any more men like João Carvalho beaten to death in the name of entertainment.

37 thoughts on “João Carvalho beaten to death in MMA fight

  1. A very cogent argument indeed Bock. I speak as a martial artist of over 30 years who has a lot of experience in fighting both at national and international level so I am well used to doling it out and getting it back so I’m no shrinking violet. However the original spirit of “fighting” or “sparring” in the martial arts was designed to show speed, agility, fighting spirit and to demonstrate that, if it had landed, your technique would have ended the fight. The intention was to display good technique and there was never any intention to make excessive contact or hurt the opponent. In fact excessive contact or injury to your opponent would result in you being either penalised or disqualified. This effectively weeded out the hard men who only wanted to behave like thugs and inflict nothing short of unadulterated violence.

    So what has this to do with MMA? Well the fast majority of decent martial artists are appalled at the concept that the only purpose of the “sport” is to inflict as much damage on your opponent as possible, this was never the so-called Eastern Budo way whereby an aggressive and violent defence to an unwarranted attack was only acceptable in a life threatening situation. MMA is so called because it borrows techniques from various martial arts but it is not a Martial Art in itself. Its a glorified streetfight and very little real skill is required once your defenceless opponent is on the mat, the idea of battering an opponent repeatedly on the mat is repugnant to martial artists and, while I only speak for myself I am ashamed to think that people may feel that this is what the martial arts is all about. Like yourself I’m not calling for anything to be banned and we all know that these practitioners are willing participants but they are certainly not martial artists. The essence of a true martial artist is to avoid violence at all costs, not to engage in this savage and barbaric practice.

  2. Don’t ban it: regulate it. Just as in the 19th century Lord Queensberry brought an end to bare fisted pugilism that went on sometimes for hours until one man was knocked unconscious or his seconds threw in the towel. Highly regulated professional boxing under the Queensberry rules still causes death (even Barry McGuigan a featherweight unintentionally killed an opponent – and deeply regretted it) and occasionally in an even more tightly regulated amateur boxing there are occasional casualties.In other amateur sports like Gaelic football teenagers sometimes die of heart attacks.In any sport professional or amateur there are occasional tragic incidents. If we ban sport we ban fun, regulated competition and adventure. We ban the spirited risk of living. Thousands of boys climb trees to rob apples every autumn and one out of so many thousands falls and breaks a leg – but we don’t expect boys to stop the centuries-long custom of robbing apples.

  3. Benjamin R, while a big fan of mma, It’s hard to compare some poor lad having a heart attack on a gaa pitch and dying of punches to the head, The intention of GAA is not to give someone a heart attack

  4. This is making Martial Art look bad. The sole purpose of martial art is to learn the techniques to DEFEND yourself from aggression. Not use as a weapon or put up for entertainment.
    MMA is not martial art. When your opponent goes down on the floor, we don’t attack them in a “Finish him” kind of fashion that we see in Violent video games.
    In the core of martial art is respect and honour. There is none of that in MMA. It’s another form of WWE, which exists purely for making millions of dollars overnight.

  5. The way Conor Mc Gregor win his very fast fight (I think it was 9mins) was disgusting.

    This is not a sport.

  6. I think they should look at introducing a rule that if the opponent goes down you can only do holds for a submission. no repeated budging allowed.

  7. The amount of uninformed bullshit in this article and in the comments is frightening. People putting their two cents in without putting any research into it.

    1. It’s not the fighters decision when the fight is stopped, it’s the ref’s. So the author said they’re not a fan of how Mcgregor hit Aldo when he was down, but that’s not McGregors fault. If the ref stepped in the second he hit the mat the fight would of been over there.

    2. People calling for it banned, will we also ban marathons? As two people died in Spain the same weekend running in a marathon.

    3. People like John saying it’s not a sport. What classifies something as a sport? People have been paralyzed playing rugby. Wouter Weylandt died cycling for gods sake. Oh and better not let anyone go skiing ever again! Then there’s boxing. What makes that better? The fact that they can only use their hands? And it can last for up to 10 rounds? 5 more than mma?

    And to all you GAA heads. I’ve seen first hand the kind of violence that hurling can bring amongst local teams, never mind inter county.

    Yes a man lost his life and it’s tragic. But don’t use it as an excuse to try and argue that something you know nothing about should be banned.

    Oh and author, I’ve read you about section. Delete this if you want, and hide away in your safespace.

  8. I used to hate mma. To me it was inhumane and the clenches looked borderline homo-erotic in a sado-masochistic way. But I saw Conor McGregor interviewed on the Late Late Show and thought “I like this guy”. I was taken in by his charm, charisma and stylish dress sense. So that got me interested in a series of documentaries on RTE following his progress to make it big in the ufc. When I looked at it from the perspective of men and women improving their diet, fitness, self-esteem, sense of adventure and overcoming fear I became interested in why people fight in the octagon and started enjoying watching the fights. It is tragic what happened to Joao Carvalho. But read Conor Mcgregor’s statement on what happened and you might have an indication as to why people do it. I hate that it happened at all and your right, it could be a codification of what happened outside of a nightclub. But isn’t it better that two people trained to fight in an octagon under somewhat regulated conditions take out whatever aggression is in them there than not having that release and becoming a group of thugs beating up a vulnerable individuals?

  9. In the article in particular, I’m talking about how you said you don’t like someone being hit when they’re down. I quote “It might be in the rules, but perhaps the rules are the problem.” No the rules are not the problem. The ref not doing his job right is the problem. In the UFC/Bellator etc. the refs are more competent.

  10. A lot of good points made here. So far though, no one has explained that banning punches to a downed fighter’s head would be more dangerous than permitting it. (Note: kicks to a downed fighter’s head are already prohibited.) We all know that any strike to a person’s head is dangerous. But, this is a part of so many sports–especially boxing. The worst danger to the brain comes after the initial impact. It’s like a forcefield protecting the brain taken down. The brain is then particularly subject to significant and long term injury. But, in boxing, participants knocked to the ground are given time to “recover”, so they stand back up and get a prolonged beating. In MMA, the fight thankfully ends sooner after an acute injury. It can be brutal, but it’s safer in the long run and any neurological expert will agree to this.

    Now, if the goal is to really make MMA as safe as possible, ban gloves. When MMA first reached mass audiences in the early ’90’s, it was a bare knuckle sport. However, very few closed fists were thrown to heads b/c the result would almost always be the same: a broken hand. In those days, it was also common to fight in a tournament, so 2 or 3 fights an evening were expected from good fighters. No one with any experience would risk breaking a hand under this context. But, I believe audiences wanted more striking and violence, so gloves were introduced. This move was also a way MMA promoters used to shut up the boxing industry which, realizing they were losing money to MMA, made a huge effort to smear MMA in the eyes of the public.

  11. Eoin,
    I think you’re giving alot of credit to the reflexes and vision of referees. They don’t have alternative reality scanning equipment hooked up to their eyes to detect subdermal injuries (Although I would like to see this in some dystopian future punk movie)

    The rule allowing blows to the head once someone has gone to ground causes a greater risk of serious injury. I’m not sure but have you heard the arguments about rugby players not being allowed back on the field for weeks after a concussion? Yet you think it’s ok for the brain to slam off the inside of the competitors skull just seconds later, from a legal blow to the head, for your entertainment?!

    Yes the Ref has discretion to intervene.
    No that isn’t enough to reasonably protect the fighters life. The rule is the unreasonable risk elevator.

    2. The article specifically didn’t call for a ban. uhhhhhhhh
    3. meh.

    Also, I didn’t see you call out any uninformed bullshit. Care to enlighten us?

  12. Sean, I respect that you have the fighters’ safety in mind and I know it seems counter intuitive, but MMA is safer than boxing for head injuries and thus banning punches to a downed fighter’s head would make MMA more akin to boxing.

    Here’s an article on a recent study:

    or a quick summary:

    “Researchers at the University of Alberta’s Sather Sports Medicine Clinic discovered that while MMA fighters are more likely than boxers to experience minor but visible injuries like bruises or contusions, they are less likely to receive the injuries that matter long-term in one’s health; things like concussions, head trauma, unconsciousness, eye and facial injuries and broken bones.”

    All of this said, I certainly mean no disrespect for the tragedy of the death of Mr. Carvalho.

  13. MMA is not mindless violence; it’s mindful, precise violence. It’s not motivated by hate, ignorence, or alcohol on a Saturday night. These are professional fighters, surrounded by teams of professionals. They know the risks of their chosen profession (though there may be case for tighter regulation as regards Referee training or medical staff etc). At any point in any fight, a fighter can bow out. He or she does not have to even have been hit. But they probably wouldn’t, because that is not the mindset that a professional fighter is likely to have. It’s their sport; it’s their passion; it’s what drives them, and that’s why in spite of the risks (which are vastly exaggerarted) they choose to do what they do, much like say mountain climbers. How many of those have died compared to MMA fighters? Should we be having a conversation about that instead, after all there are STILL over 200 dead bodies on Everest…

  14. Your point about Everest is well made. The ethics of mountaineering have been widely debated and continue to be questioned.

    However, I can’t see why this would be a reason not to debate the ethics of MMA.

  15. I was unaware there was a debate on the ethics of mountaineering.
    In fairness to mountaineering though; serious mountaineers are generally well aware of the risks involved and take measures to counter act them, however the dangers are always there. But at least they enter into it – hopefully – with a full awareness of what those dangers are. It’s not unreasonable to assume that if you go to climb Everest there is a very real chance you might die (as evidenced by the 200 plus bodies still on the mountain). Even experienced professional climbers die.
    You don’t expect it however if you play a normal competitive sport, but there are instances of death in professional sports in non combat/non extreme sports.
    You don’t expect that if you’re say a cheerleader, yet there are more cases of death and serious injury in cheerleading than in MMA.

    MMA fighters are aware of the dangers. They enter into the octagon willingly, as best prepared against those dangers as possible. but the dangers are always there.

    You end your post saying you don’t want to see anyone else beaten to death in the name of entertainment.
    João Carvalho didn’t become an MMA fighter to “entertain” you/me/us/them, he became a professional athlete in his chosen sport. The fact that you/me/us/them find it entertaining provides money to pay them to compete. But João Carvalho would have been competing somewhere else if he hadn’t been paid to be in Dublin that night, in much the same way that David Beckham would still have been playing amateur football if there was no Premier League.

    The only ethical or moral question I can see is; is it ethical or moral for me/you/us/them to watch and or enjoy it.

    As a student of history Bock I’m sure you’re already aware that some free men sold themselves into slavery just so they could become gladiators. Do we blame the Colosseum or the crowd?

  16. It’s not a question of blame. I find blame the most useless of human endeavours.

    Let’s talk about responsibility instead.

    It’s perfectly true that Carvalho didn’t get into MMA for entertainment, but that’s exactly what pays the bills and therefore it’s correct to say that he was beaten to death in the name of entertainment. After all, he could have stayed amateur if he was concerned about the purity of his art, but just like in professional boxing, once you enter that arena, you become the property of the most cynical manipulators anywhere.

    Let’s not blame the Colosseum and let’s not blame the crowd. Instead, let’s put responsibility on the emperor.

  17. Therefore all sports are entertainment. And anyone who dies during a sporting event while playing that sport has therefore died in the name of entertainment. (I’m using the term ‘sport’ here a lot, but check out the statistics on cheerleaders in American Football even if it isn’t considered a sport. If you want to talk about “in the name of entertainment”…)

    He did get “beaten to death”, but in what was clearly labeled as a beating contest with the (slight but nonetheless existing) possibility of death. He didn’t, say, get his head stomped in during the scrum in what was supposed to a friendly local club match.

    It seems to me that an athlete fully aware of the dangers of his sport died doing what he loved in front of (well, not quite, but nearly) a crowd of people who also loved the sport. The sport could be described as barbaric, but then again so could rugby.

    As to the emperor, I assume you’re referring to the promoters. But if so, then it isn’t really an ethical issue, but one of regulation (mandatory CAT scans before and after fights, the presence of doctors specialised in combat sport who can recognise early the signs of things like concussions, higher standards for referees so they know when to stop a fight, etc)

    As to responsibility; responsible for what? João Carvalho’s death? If so we could start (pending a post mortem) by saying some kind of massive brain injury. Charlie Ward’s fist was most likely responsible for that. They’re mutual practice of the sport is responsible for them both being there. The demand from the public is responsible for the event. The promoters are responsible supplying the event. Perhaps… the lack of regulation is responsible for the ref not stopping the fight earlier, and possibly… the lack of specialised medical staff to hand is responsible for there not being a higher probability of him surviving.

    What exactly is the ethical question? Should MMA fights be allowed to exist (in “civilised” society)? Should we be ashamed for watching them? Should they be profited on by the promoters who organise them?

  18. You’ll notice that no judgement has been passed in this article. It’s a subject for discussion and no more than that.

  19. Yes I know. You said it was a debate the ethics of MMA. But in what way? That’s what I mean by what is the ethical question.

    It seems to me that you are comparing this professional fighter’s death to the injuries and deaths of other men outside night clubs. That would be like comparing apples and oranges. These weren’t alcohol fueled “hard men”, they were professional athletes competing in a combat sport, fully aware of the dangers inherent. There was no hate or evil intent involved. Just two men who wanted to see who was the best at what they do (barbaric as it may be) and the business that comes around that (sleazy as it may or may not be).

    Is the ethical question the presence of violence at all in a society that strives to call itself “civilised”? Then it could also be argued that the emergence of combat as a sport, rather than a way of life, is not negligible. It also worth noting the somewhat paradoxical effect of boxing clubs on young men in what are generally deemed violent areas.

  20. Joao Carvalho did not die of the flu. He was beaten to death by another man, and whether that beating involved malice or not is another matter.

    As with most posts on this site, the purpose is to provoke discussion and debate if people are willing to engage. That’s all.

  21. Nor did he die of an unprovoked attack, or an alcohol fueled brawl. The other man was not trying to kill him. He was trying to KO (which in most MMA bouts means appearing too dazed to properly defend yourself as opposed to being actually knocked out, though it does happen), win on points (like in boxing), or submit him. And as I pointed out earlier, it was in what was clearly understood to be a beating contest. Is it somehow better to have been unwittingly rugbyed to death?

    So is it the fact that it was entertainment that involved a death, or was it that a death occurred in entertainment that involves violence?

  22. Yes Bock. In the most literal sense of the term, and as you have repeated tried to hammer home in your usage, he was beaten to death.

    Is the ethical issue that he was a profession ‘beater’? That professional ‘beating’ exists as a sport/entertainment?

  23. I don’t know if that last comment just got erased by a bug or is moderation, so this is kind of a test

  24. I’m not trying to hammer anything home. The point of the post is that one man beat another man to death, and I know that is not the object of the exercise but nevertheless it is the reality in the case of Carvalho.

    You have already seen what I wrote in the original post so there’s no point repeating it, and therefore you will know that I have a distaste for this sort of fighting, but I have been careful not to condemn it, because I’m not qualified to do so.

  25. I have read what you have written, and it is unclear to me what you are trying to say, or what point – if any – you are trying to make; so I’m trying to clarify by asking you questions that, I feel, are not unreasonable.

    Personally I feel that this is no different to a death in any other sport, except that the nature of this man’s sport was controlled violence. There are lots of violent sports, but his is different. The aim of the sport is to hurt or submit your opponent while avoiding getting hurt or submit yourself. One would imagine that this would make fatalities (even serious head injuries) drastically higher, and yet it’s quite the opposite.

    This was a tragic fatal injury in a violent sport. But there are far fewer than in other sports (like rugby for example).

  26. I might well write about other sports, as I have done in relation to Everest. I should have done more on that and I will in due course.

    However, this particular post is about MMA.

  27. You’ll have quite the subsection of “People who died in Sports” posts by the end of it so. It might be easier just to write one about Death in Sport and be done with it.

  28. That might well be a useful post in due course. As a longstanding and valued reader, you’ll be aware that it could easily happen.

  29. Don’t forget the cheerleaders…

    (Actually you might find the injury rates worth a post of it own. You’re more likely to get injured cheering on the side lines than playing on the field)

  30. Comparing injuries with other sports is a red herring. The morality of some combat sport, in that your primary objective is to render your opponent unconscious, is the issue.

    That’s unless you want to spend a few rounds accumulating points, as opposed to leaving yer man occupying a large area of floor space in the first and catching the early bus home with all your marbles intact and a fat purse in your wallet.

    It’s true that if you’re galloping down the wing in a rugby match and Limerick southpaw Paul O’Connell, a man I’ve seen at ringside for a few Andy Lee dust ups, catches up with you he won’t be exactly enquiring about your health when he takes you out.

    But the ex captain of Ireland and the Lions is after the ball. As a metaphor, so to speak.

    Speaking of lions, MMA, and its underregulated and underdeveloped ilk, is just one evolutionary rush of blood away from lions in the Coliseum scoring inside the distance wins over Christians, their seconds and any spectator they could sink their claws into back in the day.

    Personally, I like to see MMA and the like kept far from the National Stadium, the home of Olympic champions and the first purpose built boxing venue in the world in 1939.

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