Fighting Through His Injuries

Jeff’s right lung collapsed a week after he got to the hospital. It now randomly fills with mucus and chokes off his air supply, and makes it necessary for him to be hooked up to a ventilator at all times. He hasn’t been able to breathe on his own since December 24th, and doctors had to perform a tracheotomy to help assist Jeff breathe. Jeff’s life now runs through a twisting series of plastic tubes that snake in and around his skin. His body has been in a hospital bed for over a month and he’s having to deal with the constant assault of pressure, friction, and sheering that are starting to break down parts of his skin and create open wounds and bedsores.

Jeff can’t feel anything below his waist. He has movement in his arms, but not in his fingers yet. His body is fighting a catastrophic injury to his spine, and his condition hasn’t improved in over a month. Jeff’s mother, Kathy Dunbar, is wheelchair ridden from a series of strokes she suffered several years ago, and the family is without medical insurance. Jeff had been supporting the family and was trying to propel an amateur MMA career all the way to the UFC, but all that’s gone, and now Jeff is a 20-years-old fighter who can’t move his legs.

Jeff Dunbar suffered a spinal injury while he was fighting in a local amateur MMA event in December. During that fight Jeff tried to throw an opponent off his back as he was trying to defend against a rear naked choke. The move failed and Jeff struck the mat with his head with his opponent still on his back.

The fight briefly continued on the ground and his opponent finished off his chokehold before the referee stopped the fight.

His mother and sister were in attendance and immediately knew that something was terribly wrong. They both rushed to the cage, but before they could reach Jeff, his mother contends that the referee unwittingly rolled Jeff onto his back. His sister, Nicole, entered the cage screaming, “What did you do to my brother?” The audience had already gone quiet, but now everyone knew they were witnessing something horrible.

“I’m trying to roll through the crowd because I didn’t want anyone to move him. I knew that this wasn’t suppose to be done (have him moved), and the horror of all horrors happened right before my eyes when the referee rolled him,” said Kathy.

Jeff was rushed to Provena St. Joseph Medical Center, but the damage was already severe. Jeff had dislocated two vertebrae and his spinal cord was crushed.

The promoter for the event, Fight Card Entertainment, didn’t have insurance for the fight and the referee for the bout was working under an expired license.

Before his injury Jeff was an outgoing, athletic 20 year old who was well liked and popular. He was active in many different sports, and was a mentor to his younger cousins and the caretaker of his physically impaired mother.

About a year ago Jeff decided we wanted to become a fighter. He started training out of No Comment gym under the tutelage of coach Josh Bulak, and started fighting in local, amateur bouts.

“When he told me that’s what he wanted to do I was skeptical,” said Ms. Dunbar.  “But when he told me he was doing it for us, I came around to it.”

Jeff had mixed success in the ring, but the sport he was learning has a high learning curve and Jeff was making process in each month of his training.

“He came a long way from where he was,” said coach Bulak. “His first fight he lost to someone he shouldn’t have lost to, but kept improving and getting better.”

But now Jeff’s battles are confined to a hospital bed, and his injury has been incredibly difficult on his friends and family.

“Since everything has happened, it’s been stressful,” said Nicole. “I’ve been bitter, sad, you know, questioning a lot of things.”

“I’m still trying to understand things, and I’m dealing with it better now. It’s depressing to me really, cause I was used to playin around with him, and now I can’t.”

Jeff’s fight has now shifted to Kindred Hospital Chicago North, his second hospital in less than a month.

His mother and sister are constantly at his side, and pictures of Jeff and his friends have been taped to the wall along with printouts of well-wishes and prayers.

But even through the torrent of good will and support, no one from Fight Card Entertainment has contacted the Dunbar family.

Nilo Soto, the owner of Fight Card Entertainment, and his partner Brian Angelo both declined to comment about whether or not they had insurance for the fight in a recent article written by the Chicago Tribune.

Sources from around the Chicago MMA community though have confirmed that they didn’t have an insurance policy for that particular fight, and the silence the family has received from them seems to support that notion.

Jeff and his family agree that what happened to him was a “freak accident” and even in the violent world of MMA, his injury is rare. But even with a mountain of personal problems, Jeff has made it clear what he wants is to get help to other fighters, and he still wants to be involved with MMA in some way.

“The first time he was able to speak to me he said, ‘Make sure the other fighters get some protection,’” said Kathy. “There are a lot of young men doing this, and there should be a safety net for them and their families.”

“If someone gets really hurt like this, he wants them to be able to get help. He doesn’t want money or anything. It’s wonderful that people want to send money and donations, but ultimately he wants some kind of protection for other fighters.”

Maybe Fight Card Entertainment should adopt the same attitude.


For more information about Jeff, check out the Tribune article here, and his interview on Cheez TV tonight on WCIU at 2 am.


3 responses

  1. Ivan Garcia

    I’am the captain for team one10 and also fought this night in the finale of the team challenge. It is unfortunate this happen and it’s a rare accident that really doesn’t happen. So I wish jeff the best of luck and a strong recovery. His opponent that night is my teammate, and fightcard entertainment is my home but I’m a realist,the choice to dive forward and slam your opponent on his neck is not right pro or amateur. That action is not a move, it’s not an escape or even an option to defending a choke, it is something that is not even legal to do on amateur mma nor should it even be teached. In no way am I trying to disrespect Jeff or his family and his team, I know those guys and talk to them on a daily basis and look at them as my fellow mma fighters but that move has no good outcomes from it because it’s hard to see one fighter go down and have a life changeing accident and I can’t even imagine to have two fighters dealing with this. As for fightcard entertainment they have been the home of my two and a half years mma career and not once have I seen or heard of these types of accusations and honestly I just don’t believe them, they are one of the top fight promotions in the Midwest and are always on top of the game behind the scenes on the legal standpoint, and for someone to say that they didn’t even contact the family I think that’s highly doubtful but media and ppl all have your choice on opinion this is just mine. So again to Jeff you stay strong brother remember we are fighters and your tough as nail do you can push pass this and reach for better health good luck to you and family and may god give you strength. God bless

    January 21, 2012 at 12:03 am

    • Thanks for your comment. We don’t have an agenda to bash anyone or single anyone out, with that said, this story is based off interviews and not opinion. The Dunbars have made it clear that the only person that has helped them out in this situation (on the MMA side) has been Jeff’s coach. We wouldn’t write something we didn’t hear directly from the family or from trusted sources. In our interviews we heard great things about all the support Jeff has received from friends, fighters and strangers that just want to help. We heard nothing about Fight Card.

      January 21, 2012 at 1:26 am

  2. jake

    Garcia you must work for FE because your buddies at FE havent done sh*t for him. Every major chicago news outlet have reported that have got nothing and the family have got nothing from this company. In what lil money they had will be taken by the lawyers.

    January 26, 2012 at 12:18 am

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