Justin Thornton, whose MMA career included 24 pro fights, has died after injuries sustained in a knockout loss at BKFC 20 in August.
BKFC president Dave Feldman confirmed Thornton’s death to MMA Junkie on Monday following an initial report from My MMA News.
“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,” Feldman told MMA Junkie in a prepared statement. “We join the rest of the combat sports community in sending our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.”
Thornton fought Dillon Cleckler in a heavyweight bout at BKFC 20 in Biloxi, Miss. Cleckler caught him with a right hand, and Thornton fell to the canvas face first just 18 seconds into the fight. Thornton was taken out of the ring on a stretcher and reportedly had been hospitalized since the fight – including on a ventilator. An exact cause of death has not been announced.
The 38-year-old Thornton took the bareknuckle fight with Cleckler on a five-fight skid in MMA – all first-round stoppages, including two knockout losses. He hadn’t won an MMA fight since October 2016. His most recent MMA loss came in less than a minute to MMA promoter Lex McMahon, who was fighting as a pro for the first time.
Thornton’s career MMA record was 8-16, all for regional promotions. His first pro fight was in 2008.
The fight with Cleckler was a rematch. Cleckler beat him under the Island Fights banner in 2013. Cleckler came into the BKFC 20 fight with an 11-1 MMA record and two knockout wins for BKFC.