Hamilton remembers MMA hopeful who died after fight
Felix Elochukwu Nchikwo died after an amateur bout in April
A downtown Hamilton parish got together on Sunday to celebrate the life of a gentle giant named Felix Elochukwu Nchikwo.
Nchikwo, 35, died in hospital last month after participating in an Amateur Fighting Club (AFC) bout in Port Huron, Mich. The Nigerian-born fighter had spent years in Hamilton training to pursue a career as an MMA fighter.
But at St. Patrick's church on King Street East, they don't remember him as a brawler. They remember him as a kind soul with a warm smile, says Reverend Tony O'Dell.
Last fall, the church put out a desperate call for ushers to help with services. "And along comes Felix, standing six-foot-five or taller, built like a tank and armed with a smile that would melt the hearts of children and elderly alike," O'Dell said during his Sunday-morning service.
"No one would ever think to mess with this friendly giant."
He was a man who constantly wanted to share his gifts with the community around him, O'Dell says. In fact, he was so concerned about the disadvantaged in the community around St. Patrick's that he had planned to create a sports team this summer for children in need at St. Patrick's school.
"He wanted to give our children who can't afford luxuries the opportunities to play sports in this community," O'Dell said.
Losing a member of the family
Nchikwo died during an amateur MMA bout in Michigan on April 6, just across the St. Clair River from Sarnia, Ont.
The native of Anambra State, Nigeria lasted three rounds in the ring. Officials stopped the fight when Nchikwo showed signs he was having difficulty defending himself.
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.
The St. Clair County medical examiner has conducted an autopsy on Nchikwo's body. A full report is expected in the coming weeks. The coroner's office has said there is no evidence Nchikwo died of traumatic injuries.
A representative from the St. Clair County medical examiner's office could not be reached on Sunday.
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 St. John's entertainment district.
"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."
Making friends quickly was something Nchikwo excelled at, O'Dell said. Even in the short year or so that he spent at St. Patrick's Parish, the big guy made a lasting impression.
"Felix showed me and those who knew him what the actions of the spirit looked like."
With files from Cory Ruf