There is "no evidence" that a Hamilton man died from trauma he sustained during an unregulated mixed martial arts match, according to representative from a Michigan coroner's office.
The St. Clair County medical examiner has conducted an autopsy on Felix Nchikwo's body. A full report is expected in six to eight weeks.
The 35-year-old, who fought under the name Felix Pablo Elochukwu, died in hospital on Saturday after participating in an Amateur Fighting Club (AFC) bout in Port Huron, Mich., just across the St. Clair River from Sarnia, Ont.
The Nigerian-born fighter lasted three rounds in the ring. Officials stopped the fight when Nchikwo showed signs he was having difficulty defending himself.
"He just had an MMA fight and he got a little exhausted and the fight was stopped," said Rick Joslin, founder of Joslin's Martial Arts, the gym where Nchikwo trained.
"He was perfectly all right. He just got tired at the end, got a little dizzy. They gave him some juice and then he collapsed forward. Now they're doing an autopsy to see if he had a heart attack or whatever."
Joslin said Nchikwo was a nice man who was quiet. "But he was a big boy and I think maybe the over-exertion from the fight was a little too much for him at that time."
The AFC confirmed Nchikwo's death on its Facebook page.
"We lost a member of our MMA family and we would like to take this time to honour him," the posting read.
"This is a tragic turn of events. We will keep his family and friends in our prayers and we ask you to do the same. May God be with them in this devastating time of loss."
Studied in Newfoundland
Nchikwo was living in Canada on a student visa. He had been studying at Memorial University in Newfoundland before moving to Ontario about two years ago to pursue a career in MMA.
He was employed as a private security guard for a DJ who worked in several clubs on George Street, a hub for nightlife in St. John's.
"He came into our lives out of the blue, then he became a friend very quickly and he was well respected," said Seamus Dooley, 26, who runs Flo Lounge, a bar where Nchikwo became a familiar face. "I would describe him as a gentle giant, no doubt."
Nchikwo got interested in MMA after a friend told him he'd be good at the sport, Dooley said.
"The more he looked into it, the more excited he got about it."
Michigan may regulate amateur MMA
Nchikwo's death occurred just days before Michigan's state legislature voted to regulate amateur MMA. The state's house of representatives passed a bill on Wednesday that mandates the creation of an advisory commission to oversee the sport.
The legislation still needs the approval of the state's senate to become law.
AFC founder Aron Anglebrandt said he "cannot wait" for the state to regulate amateur MMA.
"We welcome it because all of these small-time shows, they put on shows that don't have insurance, they don't have the proper [paramedics] and they don't have the proper number of referees.
"They won't be able to withstand the amount of money it's going to take to put on a show, while we're going to be able to."