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12th Apr 2016

The crowd cheered as Joao Carvalho walked out of the cage, nobody thought that would be the last time he’d ever fight

An eyewitness account of what happened

Ben Kiely

I was sitting cageside at Total Extreme Fighting’s inaugural event on Saturday night for the entirety of the card, including the bout between Charlie Ward and Joao Carvalho.

After the fight ended, none of the crowd inside the National Stadium could have foreseen what would happen next.

Ward started the fight off strong and was winning the early exchanges, but Carvalho defended himself intelligently throughout, and started landing some big shots of his own on the SBG fighter.


During the fight, I noted the doctors checking to make sure Carvalho was alright, which is standard during MMA bouts. The medical staff found Carvalho fit to continue and, as an observer from the crowd, he didn’t appear to be in any serious trouble for the first two rounds of the fight, and for most of the third round.

My feeling at the time that the medical staff carried out their job properly was confirmed by reports after the fight.

The fight ended soon after Ward landed a heavy right hook, which saw Carvalho drop to the canvas.

Ward then pounced on the downed opponent, took his back and hit him with nine strikes before the referee intervened and awarded him the TKO victory.

After the knockout, the crowd erupted in support of Ward’s performance. The applause was followed by concerned hushes for Carvalho who was stunned on the ground.

However, after the referee and the doctor checked on his condition, he stood up to cheers and clapping from the fans.

Both men walked out of the cage and appeared to be fine. The only discussion in the stands directly after the bout that I could hear was about Ward’s performance. The fans around me praised the SBG fighter for being more reserved than usual and making less mistakes in this bout.

No one around me suspected that Carvalho was badly hurt. Everyone remained in their seats waiting for the next contest to begin.

When the report surfaced on Sunday that the Team Nobrega fighter was rushed to hospital after the fight, it came as a huge shock. As the story developed and we heard that he was in a very serious condition before tragically passing away on Monday night.

Since then the brief moments after the fight had ended have been replaying on a constant loop in my head.

As Carvalho made the walk backstage, he was taking some of his final steps. At that point, as far as he, the referee and the doctors were concerned, he was fine. If none of the fans saw his untimely death coming, there’s no way he could have possibly envisaged it either.

There’s something very unsettling about that.