Full List of Dead UFC Fighters (2023 Updated UFC Deaths)

Are you wondering if there are any dead UFC fighters?

In this article, we’ll look at the full list of dead UFC fighters who died before their time.

Full List of Dead UFC Fighters (UFC Deaths)

While there have never been any UFC deaths as a direct result of fighting in the octagon, there have been 22 MMA deaths as a result of fighting or fighting-related things such as weight-cutting.

This is a list of dead UFC fighters who mostly died after retiring or being released from the promotion. Only one fighter in this list died while still actively fighting with the UFC, but whose death wasn’t fighting-related.

Here’s a table of all dead UFC fighters, in order of the date of death. At the time of writing, 20 former UFC fighters have died.

FighterCause of DeathBornDiedAge
Gilbert AldanaDrowningAugust 25, 1977March 11, 200729
Evan TannerHeat ExposureFebruary 11, 1971September 5, 200837
Justin LevensSuicideApril 18, 1980December 17, 200828
Justin EilersMurdered by GunshotJune 28, 1978December 25, 200830
Tony HalmeSuicideJanuary 6, 1963January 8, 201047
Sherman PendergarstColon CancerFebruary 1, 1967July 20, 201245
Shane Del RosarioAnoxic EncephalopathySeptember 23, 1983December 9, 201330
Kevin RosierHeart AttackJanuary 6, 1962April 14, 201553
Corey HillCollapsed Lung / Heart AttackOctober 3, 1978May 15, 201536
Emmanuel YarbroughHeart AttackSeptember 5, 1964December 21, 201551
Kevin RandlemanHeart Attack / PneumoniaAug 10, 1971Feb 11, 201644
Kevin FergusonTraumatic Heart FailureFebruary 8, 1974June 6, 201642
Ryan JimmoHit and Run (Murdered)November 27, 1981June 26, 201634
Amar SuloevStomach CancerJanuary 7, 1976June 27, 201640
Josh SammanDrug OverdoseMarch 14, 1988October 5, 201628
Tim HagueBrain HemorrhageMay 9, 1983June 18, 201734
Rodrigo de LimaRun Over (Murdered)March 3, 1991April 21, 201928
Elias TheodorouColon CancerMay 31, 1988 September 11, 202233
Anthony JohnsonNon-Hodgkin’s LymphomaMarch 6, 1984November 13, 202238
Stephan BonnarHeart ComplicationsApril 4, 1977December 22, 202245
UFC Deaths

The list will be updated and act as a remembrance of the UFC fighters who risked their health for our entertainment.

Below is some information about each fighter, what they’re known for, their career achievements, and how they died.

Note: Fighters who were more unknown and only had 1 fight in the UFC may not be included below, but they’re in the table above.

Gilbert Aldana

Born: August 25, 1977 | Died: March 11, 2007 | Age: 29 | Cause of Death: Drowning

Gilbert Aldana is a relatively unknown fighter, as his career only lasted 3 years from 2004 to 2007. Gilbert was a heavyweight who had 2 UFC fights and lost to Paul Buentello and Cheick Kongo before getting released.

Gilbert Aldana died following a boat trip on Lake Pleasant in Arizona, with fellow MMA fighter, Dave Connant, and their families. His shirt flew into the sea and he dived in after it, misjudging how strong the waves were and how cold the water was.

Dave Connant dived in after him and the pair were holding each other afloat for a while, but the waves grew stronger and they were being pushed further away from the boat.

Eventually, it was too much and Dave had to try and swim back, while sadly Gilbert never made it back to his wife and two children on the boat.

Evan Tanner

Born: February 11, 1971 | Died: September 5, 2008  | Age: 37 | Cause of Death: Heat Exposure

Evan Tanner is a former UFC middleweight champion whose MMA career lasted 11 years from 1997 to 2008. He’s considered one of the first mixed martial artists to effectively use elbows during ground-and-pound and is also known for starting his MMA career by learning through online instructional videotapes.

He became the middleweight UFC champion by first beating Robbie Lawler via submission and then beating Dave Terrell via TKO to claim the vacant middleweight title.

With a short break in 1999 and 2000, Tanner fought most of his career in the UFC and amassed an 11-6 record.

In what turned out to be a weird series of events, Tanner’s last win in MMA was against Justin Levens at UFC 59 in 2006, a UFC fighter who committed suicide in December 2008, just 3 months after Tanner’s death.

Evan Tanner died in September 2008 after a failed solo trip into the desert of Imperial County, California. Before the trip, various fans around the world warned him of the risks of such an adventure, but he wouldn’t hear them.

His death was caused by traveling too far out from his campsite in hopes of refilling his water bottles at Clapp Spring. It was 48 degrees celsius on the day he died and the spring was dry. 

In the end, he died of heat exposure and dehydration and is the only fighter on this list who died while still active with the UFC. In 2011, a documentary called ‘Once I Was a Champion’ was released, looking at the life of Evan Tanner and the untimely manner of his death.

Justin Levens

Born: April 18, 1980 | Died: December 17, 2008 | Age: 28 | Cause of Death: Suicide

In his short MMA career from 2004 to 2007, Justin Levens fought 17 times and amassed a 9-8 record. In 2006 he fought twice in the UFC but lost to Evan Tanner and Jorge Santiago, leading to his release.

Sadly, on December 17, 2008, Justin and his wife were found dead in their Californian home. Justin shot his wife and shot himself as a result of depression.

Justin was depressed because he was suspended from MMA for 6 months and fined $1,000 after testing positive for the banned substance oxymorphone, an injected painkiller. He was suspended until January 9, 2009, but committed the murder-suicide 2 months before his suspension was lifted.

Justin was also depressed about the suicide of his friend, Jeremy Williams, who was also an MMA fighter. Justin also had a declining career, losing his last 5 fights before the suspension prevented his 6th fight. Losing fights, not being able to fight, and having money problems all got too much for him.

Justin Eilers

Born: June 28, 1978 | Died: December 25, 2008 | Age: 30 | Cause of Death: Murdered by Gunshot

Justin Eilers had 4 fights in the UFC between 2004 and 2005, where he amassed a 1-3 record before his release due to three consecutive losses.

Justin was an extremely entertaining fighter, who won 18 of his 19 fights by KO/TKO.

When Justin died at the age of 30, it wasn’t a result of ill health or anything to do with his MMA career. He was shot and killed on Christmas day by his stepfather James Malec after tensions rose between Justin and his former girlfriend.

Justin had an MMA record of 19-7, and while he had a tough time in the UFC, he’d just fought against Antonio Bigfoot Silva in EliteXC, just 5 months before his death on 25 Dec 2008. Justin left behind a son, while his stepfather was charged with manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Shane Del Rosario

Born: September 23, 1983 | Died: December 9, 2013  | Age: 30 | Cause of Death: Anoxic Encephalopathy (Lack of oxygen to the brain)

Shane fought professionally from 2006 to 2012, which included two fights for the UFC in 2012. He was a very talented kickboxer and muay thai fighter, entering the UFC with an undefeated 12-0 MMA record but going on to lose against Stipe Miocic and Pat Barry.

Outside of MMA, he became the two-time WBC Muay Thai World heavyweight champion and was the first American to do so.

Shane’s complications started when he was hospitalized on November 26, 2013, suffering full cardiac arrest following two heart attacks. He was resuscitated and kept in the hospital on life support where he started to make gradual improvements.

However, his condition took a turn for the worse and he was declared dead on December 9, 2013. On his death certificate, the cause of death is down as long qt syndrome, ventricular fibrillation, and anoxic encephalopathy. Overall his cardiac arrests had deprived his brain of oxygen and he was unable to recover.

It was also written on his death certificate that cocaine, opiates, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) were present in his system at the time of death and that they may have contributed to his death by making his underlying conditions worse. The amounts of these drugs in his system were never revealed.

Kevin Rosier

Born: January 6, 1962 | Died: April 14, 2015 | Age: 53 | Cause of Death: Heart Attack

Another early UFC fighter, Kevin Rosier was a kickboxer who competed at UFC 1 and made it to the semifinals, and also UFC 4 where he lost in round 1.

His MMA career lasted 7 years between 1993 and 2000, and he competed in kickboxing between 1987 and 1994, winning various heavyweight world championship titles.

Being on the heavier side most of his combat sports life and known for having a poor diet, after his retirement Kevin became ill for some time, mostly spending his time resting and trying to recover. Sadly, Kevin suffered a heart attack during his recovery and passed away at the age of 53.

Corey Hill

Born: October 3, 1978 | Died: May 15, 2015 | Age: 36 | Cause of Death: Collapsed Lung / Heart Attack

Corey Hill is remembered for being the tallest ever UFC lightweight, standing 6 feet 4 inches (1.93m), as well as for the horrific leg break he suffered in his third UFC fight against Dale Hartt in 2008.

Unfortunately, the leg break incident was his last fight in the UFC, but he continued fighting until 2015 for various promotions. He’s also well known for fighting on the 5th season of The Ultimate Fighter, where he lost to the eventual winner of the competition, Nate Diaz.

Just 3 months after his last MMA fight in February 2015, Corey died in hospital as a result of a collapsed lung and heart attack, stemming from bronchitis and the surgery that followed. Corey left behind a wife and three children.

Emmanuel Yarbrough

Born: September 5, 1964 | Died: December 21, 2015 | Age: 51 | Cause of Death: Heart Attack

Emmanuel Yarbrough was one of the first-ever UFC fighters. He competed at UFC 3 and represented the martial art of sumo wrestling, where he’d won silver medals at the Sumo World Championships in 1992 and 1994.

He’ll always hold the record for being the heaviest UFC fighter of all time, as he fought at 616 lbs (279.4 kg) before the 265 lbs heavyweight weight limit was introduced in 2001 as part of the Official Unified Rules of MMA.

Having been very heavy since the age of 14 (320 lbs), Emmanuel had heart failure in 2007 and was hospitalized for a week; weighing 800 lbs at the time. 

He recovered and reduced his weight quickly, managing to stay no heavier than 670 lbs until he had another heart attack in 2015. This time he didn’t survive and another UFC pioneer was gone at the age of 51.

Kevin Randleman

Born: August 10, 1971 | Died: February 11, 2016 | Age: 44 | Cause of Death: Heart Attack Following Pneumonia

Kevin Randleman is a UFC legend, who competed there from 1999 to 2002 and managed to become the UFC heavyweight champion after beating Pete Williams in his first UFC fight in 1999.

He then had a successful title defense against Pedro Rizzo before losing the title to Randy Couture in 2000. After leaving the UFC with a 4-3 record, he competed in Pride from 2002 to 2006, before having his last MMA fight in 2011 at the age of 39.

Overall, his MMA career lasted 15 years from 1996 to 2011 and he’ll also be remembered for his wrestling credentials at the University of Ohio. He became a two-time NCAA wrestling champion and was inducted into the Ohio Hall of Fame in 2004.

In 2020 he was inducted into the pioneer wing of the UFC Hall of Fame, where he became the first fighter to be inducted after death.

Sadly, Kevin unexpectedly suffered a heart attack due to complications from pneumonia while away on a business trip. He left behind a wife and four children.

While speculation, it’s possible to say that Kevin’s poor health since 2007 was a result of the tolls an MMA career takes on the body and mind. That year he was hospitalized with damage to his kidneys and a staph infection which nearly killed him.

On top of the damage done by the steroids he was taking for the many years of fighting, his ill health caused him to have many surgeries and have to take many antibiotics and medications – which his organs couldn’t take it anymore.

Kevin Ferguson (Kimbo Slice)

Born: February 8, 1974 | Died: June 6, 2016 | Age: 42 | Cause of Death: Traumatic Heart Failure

Kevin Ferguson, more so known as Kimbo Slice, was the man behind the world of backyard street fighting, becoming so successful that he went from homelessness to making himself an internet sensation and bringing to MMA the likes of himself and Jorge Masvidal.

He signed with EliteXC in 2007 where he beat the likes of David ‘Tank’ Abbott, and had his last pro fight with Bellator in 2016. Kimbo Slice was such a sensation that Dana White created a season of The Ultime Fighter specifically for heavyweights, as a way to get Kimbo into the UFC.

He lost in the first round against Roy Nelson but his star power earned him a contract. He fought in the UFC just twice, beating Houston Alexander and losing to Matt Mitrione, which saw him released by the UFC.

Following his release, he spent the next 5 years boxing until he had his final 2 fights in Bellator.

His third Bellator fight was a scheduled rematch against Josh Thompson for July 2016 but the fight never materialized after Kimbo died in hospital on June 6. He was omitted to the hospital a week prior, suffering from stomach pain and shortness of breath.

He was diagnosed with a mass on his liver and with heart failure, and was awaiting a heart transplant but died before being transported to another hospital. His family and coach wanted him to give up fighting, as it was evident in his last two Bellator fight that something was wrong with his stamina.

It’s also known that he’d been taking blood pressure medication for years, but he wanted to continue fighting to make more money. Sadly, in the end, his fighting spirit was his undoing as he should’ve retired and had treatment earlier.

Years of steroids and ignoring his body and mind ultimately caused Kimbo’s death. A wife and 6 children survive him.

Ryan Jimmo

Born: November 27, 1981| Died: June 26, 2016  | Age: 34 | Cause of Death: Hit and Run

Ryan Jimmo will always be remembered for having one of the best UFC debuts of all time; knocking out Anthony Perosh in just 7 seconds to score one of the fastest UFC knockouts in history and executing the perfect robot dance and splits as a celebration.

He had an 8-year MMA career from 2007 to 2015, amassing a 19-5 record and fighting in the UFC 7 times between 2012 and 2015.

Ryan was unfairly taken as a result of a fatal hit-and-run incident in 2016, following an altercation between himself and another road user. Ryan later died in the hospital at the age of 34, as a result of the injuries he sustained. His killer was convicted of 2nd-degree murder and sentenced to 8 years in prison.

Amar Suloev

Born: January 7, 1976 | Died: June 27, 2016 | Age: 40 | Cause of Death: Stomach Cancer

Amar Suloev was a Russian martial artist whose career lasted from 1999 to 2008, where he fought for various promotions such as the UFC, M-1 Global, and Pride FC.

Amar had 2 fights in the UFC but lost to Chuck Liddell and Phil Baroni before getting released in 2002.

Between the end of his career in 2008 and his death in 2016, it’s reported Amar was involved in organized crime. He was arrested and accused of being part of a contract killing of Russian politicians, but for which there was little evidence against him.

While awaiting trial, Amar was released from prison on bail due to his stage four stomach cancer diagnosis; which eventually led to his passing away in June 2016.

Josh Samman

Born: March 14, 1988 | Died: October 5, 2016 | Age: 28 | Cause of Death: Drug Overdose

Josh Samman’s MMA career lasted 9 years from 2007 to 2016, competing in the UFC and Bellator. In 5 UFC fights, Josh had a 3-2 record and was still competing there before his death in October 2016. He died the day before the start of his training camp for his next UFC fight at UFC FN:102 in December.

Josh died alongside his friend, Troy Kirkingburg, both having overdosed on heroin, cocaine, and Xanax in their apartment in Florida. 

Josh left behind a memoir, describing his troubled past and how drugs from an early age led him astray. His mother forced him to go to rehab, but when he left he was kicked out of the house at the age of 16 and also dropped out of school. 

To stay afloat he sold drugs and in his spare time he joined an MMA gym, falling in love with it. MMA has been credited with saving his life by keeping him away from drugs for periods of time up until his eventual overdose at the age of 28.

Josh Samman was a good fighter with a 12-4 MMA record, but the death of his girlfriend in 2013 caused him bouts of deep depression and in the end, something he couldn’t get past.

After his death, the UFC released a short documentary on UFC Fight Pass about his life, titled, ‘UFC Chronicles: Love, Death, and Prize Fighting’. 

Tim Hague

Born: May 9, 1983 | Died: June 18, 2017 | Age: 34 | Cause of Death: Brain Hemorrhage

Tim Hague was a Canadian MMA fighter and boxer, whose MMA career lasted from 2006 to 2016. Tim fought 5 times in the UFC, amassing a 1-4 record before getting released.

Tim died in 2017 after he was knocked out in a boxing match and had a fatal brain hemorrhage. It was revealed in the autopsy that Hague had CTE, likely because of his 10-year MMA career and the 4 knockout losses he suffered in his last 5 fights over an 11-month period.

It’s an unfortunate death and one that likely could’ve been avoided had Tim taken more time to rest and recover following every knockout loss.

Rodrigo de Lima

Born: March 3, 1991 | Died: April 21, 2019 | Age: 28 | Cause of Death: Run Over (Murdered)

Rodrigo de Lima is a lesser-known MMA fighter despite fighting professionally for 14 years from 2004 to 2008 and making it to the UFC. While there he had 2 fights but lost both to Neil Magny and Efrain Escudero.

Rodrigo was killed in 2019 after a dispute with an Uber driver resulted in him being run over and dying immediately after impact. He’s survived by his wife and two kids.

Elias Theodorou

Born: May 31, 1988 | Died: September 11, 2022 | Age: 33 | Cause of Death: Colon Cancer

Elias Theodorou was a former UFC middleweight fighter who earned his entry by winning The Ultimate Fighter: Australia vs Canada. A talented fighter with a 19-3 MMA record, Elias had been fighting for over a decade since 2011.

Fans were surprised when Elias was cut from the UFC, following a decision loss to Derek Brunson that put an end to his 3-fight win streak, but who had an 8-3 UFC record overall. Dana White revealed he didn’t believe Elias had the potential to break into the top 5 or become an undisputed UFC champion.

Elias was also the first MMA fighter and professional athlete in Canada and America to get a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for cannabis use; meaning he could smoke up to the day before a fight. He remains the only fighter to have been granted one (September 2022) and was a proud cannabis activist.

Having last fought in the UFC in 2019, Elias later died in September 2022 from stage four colon cancer at the age of 33.

To Conclude

This has been a full list of dead UFC fighters, who’ve all passed away since leaving the promotion. No fighter has died as a direct result of a fight in the UFC to date.

Most of these fighters died way too young with the most common cause of death being heart attacks and cancer.

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