Duke Roufus has been an integral part of the kickboxing community for the past two decades, initially competing as a heavyweight before diverting his attentions to coaching and commentating in more recent years. Widely regarded as one of the best coaches within combat sports, Roufus has come under fire over the past few days from both the media and by several of his former fighters.
The criticism began with the release of an article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Saturday, highlighting some atrocities involved in the handling of former Roufusport fighter Dennis Munson Jr. On the 28th of March this year, the martial arts community received the tragic news that 24-year old kickboxer Dennis Munson had passed away after collapsing during his amateur debut, the Milwaukee Police Department's medical examiner concluded that Munson died because of head trauma. The article, titled 'Death in the Ring' went in depth regarding the mishandling and negligence that surrounded the fighters untimely passing.
For those who haven't seen the video of Munson's fight, there were noticeable signs that something was apparently wrong. After a competitive first round Munson seemed noticeably slower in the second, stumbling at points and lowering his defense. Although this could easily be perceived as signs of a fatigued fighter, it was in-between the second and third round when it became obvious that there issues with Munson.
Munson slumped to his chair and seemed to struggle holding his head up. His cornerman, Scott Cushman had to repeatedly push his head back as the fighter's condition was clearly deteriorating. As the third round begins, Munson attempts to stand but is incredibly unstable, needing to be propped up by coach Cushman.
The third round is very difficult to watch. Munson is completely out of it, he can barely hold up his hands whilst his opponent pummels him for the better part of two minutes. Despite obvious signs that Munson is unable to defend himself and clearly in no condition to be fighting, the cornerman fail to intervene and save Munson from more punishment. After the fight ends Munson struggles back to his corner before collapsing to the canvas.
So I'm sure you're wondering why the finger is being pointed at Duke Roufus regarding this tragic incident. The Wisconsin Athletic Commission does not regulate kickboxing events, so all doctors, physicians and officials for the event were provided by the NAFC promotion, which is run by Duke Roufus and Scott Joffe. There were also several other factors that contributed to the event which could have easily been avoided, were it not for the negligence of the promoters.
The fighters were subject to same-day weigh-ins. So merely hours after the exhausting process of attempting to make weight before a contest, they only had several hours to replenish themselves before competing. This is uncommon in combat sports as fighters are usually required to weigh-in the day before, giving them ample time to recover. As the Milwaukee Journal pointed out the likely reason for this would be to save money, as officials wouldn't be required until the day of the event. It has also been reported that no pre-fight medical examinations took place.
The promotion has also come under heavy criticism for how they dealt with Munson once he collapsed. In usual circumstances it is the standard procedure for the doctor to enter the ring and attend to the fighter in trouble. In this instance, the doctor stood outside of the ring, looking on as Cushman knelt by the fighter. After a minute or so Munson was inexplicably rolled from the ring and seated him against the ring apron.
Munson was also sent to the wrong hospital by the doctor at the event. Despite clearly suffering from head trauma of some kind, the doctor suggested Munson was sent to the nearest hospital instead of Froedert hospital, the regions nearest trauma centre. Thirty minutes after collapsing Munson finally entered the hospital in a comatose state, passing away shortly after.
Highly-regarded kickboxing referee Al Wichgers has also been criticized. Wichgers was the referee in charge of Munson's bout and failed to stop the contest despite clear signs that Munson's was unfit to be competing. Fighter protection should always be at the forefront of any officials focus, however in between rounds Wichgers did not go over to check on Munson once, despite Munson stumbling around for the better part of two rounds.
In addition to the release of the journal , several former members of Roufusport have spoken out against Duke Roufus and his coaching staffs handling of their fighters. Current Ultimate Fighter contestant and women's MMA competitor Rose Namajunas released numerous accounts on social media site Sqor, detailing different accounts reports of Roufus allegedly bullying some of his team.
The stories ranged from Roufus and his coaching staff forcing fighters to spar with people over double their weight, being told to continue training after being rocked, and even Roufus soccer kicking a pupil whom he regularly humiliated.
Namajunas isn't the only fighter to speak out against her former trainer. Former UFC competitor and Roufusport grappling coach Eric 'Red' Schafer today released his own statement regarding the accusations, describing Roufus as 'a bully, a liar and one of the worst people I have ever met.'
The negligence in the unfortunate case of Dennis Munson combined with the reports of Roufus allegedly bullying his pupils does not put Roufus and his team in a good position at all. If the accusations put forward are indeed true, they will receive a massive backlash from the combat sports community and will likely lose their position as one of the top kickboxing and MMA camps in North America. It is also worth noting that Roufus has also been a color commentator for GLORY in the past, so it'll be interesting to see whether or not these recent accusations affect his position within their organisation.