Douglas Dedge (June 18, 1966 – March 18, 1998) was an American mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter who became the first known American competitor to be fatally injured in an MMA fight. The death occurred at an event in Ukraine. Dedge took several shots directly to the head before the referee stopped the contest. Dedge collapsed after the fight and died two days later from severe brain injuries at the Kiev Institute of Neurosurgery. There are "unconfirmed reports" that Dedge had a pre-existing medical condition and was not medically cleared to fight in the U.S. or Japan.
Dedge, who was from Chipley, Florida, had founded an MMA school in Enterprise, Alabama. He competed in one-off MMA and Toughman competitions around the southern United States until he developed a severe concussion and possibly cracked skull that led to numerous doctors telling him to take upwards of a year off from combat sports. Since Dedge fought as a career, he did not listen to medical advice. Friends later said he did not believe his head injury to be as serious as it was.
Dedge's fatal bout occurred at the International Super Challenge in Kiev, Ukraine on March 16, 1998. The limited rules event was billed as a "Ukraine Against the World" contest and drew about 4,000 spectators. To field the opposition, labeled the "World Team," Minamoto circulated invitations on the Internet that guaranteed potential competitors travel and stay expenses, as well as $2,000 for fighting and an additional $3,000 to win. Dedge was one of three American fighters.
Dedge signed on to face Ukrainian grappler Yevgeni Zolotarev and went into training. Friends later admitted they witnessed Dedge repeatedly black out during training for the fight, yet could not talk him out of fighting.
During Dedge’s fight, he was mounted by Zolotarev and repeatedly hammered with punches, though he was reportedly still "defending himself well". The fight lasted less than five minutes before referee stoppage.
The death affected the acceptance of sanctioned mixed martial arts shows in America and also was one of the cited reasons that UFC co-founder and matchmaker Art Davie left the UFC, claiming the death would lead to the death of the UFC. He signed on to promote K-1 kickboxing events in the U.S.
Dedge's death was reported in two UK tabloid newspapers in years following the bout, both of which wrongly cited the circumstances of Dedge's death.