Clovis Hancock remembers being in the cage fighting Friday against Charlie Ontiveros at LFA 26 in Houston. Then, after that, all he remembers is waking up in a hospital bed.
Hancock said doctors told him he died and was resuscitated before leaving the Arena Theatre venue that night. In the second round, Hancock collapsed. He wasn’t breathing, he went into cardiac arrest and his kidneys failed.
“As soon as I engaged, I felt it right away,” Hancock told MMA Fighting on Tuesday. “My body wasn’t responding like it normally does. The strength just wasn’t there. I felt lightheaded. The next thing you know, second round, boom, fall over and wake up in the hospital. Everybody tells me they had to give me CPR and hit me with the defibrillator. I couldn’t believe it. I was blown away.”
It took the work of LFA cutman David Maldonado, ringside physicians, the EMTs on scene and even an emergency room nurse who came into the cage from the crowd to revive Hancock.
Maldonado, a licensed physical therapist and experienced athletic trainer, told MMA Fighting that he performed CPR and Hancock was given tracheal intubation, a tube put down this throat to aid breathing. The EMTs then hit the fighter once with an Automated External Defibrillator (AEC).
Hancock, 32, was dead for about five minutes, Maldonado estimated, but by the time he was wheeled to the base of the ambulance, he had been resuscitated.
“I would say there were five minutes that he was dead,” Maldonado said. “Him even having a [heart] rhythm, someone could argue and say that’s some form of life, but no. By the time there was anything reactionary or something like that, that looked more like a voluntary or self-propelled movement was not until he was almost in the ambulance. And even then, that was just one time.”
Hancock doesn’t remember any of that. He just knows what he was told when he came to alongside his girlfriend Christine Ross at Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital. Hancock said along with the cardiac arrest and kidney failure, doctors also told him he had a heart contusion, or bruise on his heart. He has no idea where it came from — whether it happened in the fight or otherwise.
The whole situation befuddles Hancock and he’s still attempting to come to grips with the whole thing. He said he heard horror stories before, but never thought anything bad could happen to him.
Hancock’s only explanation now, along with the heart contusion, is that he had a weight cut gone awry. He said he was trying to cut 45 pounds for weigh-ins last Thursday.
“Honestly, I’m not sure,” Hancock said. “I think a lot of it had to do with me having a really hard weight cut. I cut from 215 to make 170. I think that had a lot to do with it. My heart enzymes were up, they were all out of whack. Honestly, I’m not sure, though.
“It was the biggest weight cut I’ve ever really did. I’ve had pretty bad weight cuts in the past, but this was the worst one.”
Hancock said he did not feel right while he was in the sauna trying to shed the weight. He felt sick to his stomach. But, being the fighter he is, he shook it off and powered through. When he got into the cage against Ontiveros, despite believing he had rehydrated adequately, Hancock said he knew something was not right.
“As soon as I clinched up with him, I could tell something was off,” Hancock said. “My body wasn’t responding correctly. I knew when I was cutting weight. I was in the sauna and I was getting lightheaded and nauseous and whatnot. But I just kept going. I was like, ‘Eh, I’ll be fine.’ And it ended up affecting me pretty bad. My body just shut down on me.”
Ontiveros did land some blows on him before he went down, Hancock said. But it wasn’t the punches and kicks that did him in, Hancock believes. He knows he has experienced worse than that.
“I’ve been hit by vehicles on motorcycles and that didn’t happen to me,” Hancock said. “I was severely dehydrated. I think all of it together caused it. I thought I rehydrated properly, but I obviously didn’t, because when I got to the hospital they said I was severely dehydrated and I soaked up six bags of saline quick, within like four or five hours.”
Hancock got home from the hospital Monday, which is nothing short of a miracle. He’s still on pain killers, he said, but there isn’t much other treatment. Doctors told him he shouldn’t allow his heart rate to get up for a period of six weeks, so he can’t train until that length of time is over. Hancock said he was also told he should never fight again.
That, he said, is the worst part. And he does plan on going in for tests in the future to attempt to get cleared to compete in the cage again. After six weeks is up, Hancock said he’ll refocus on his Brazilian jiu-jitsu and enter into tournaments and superfights.
“Even though it sucks I can’t fight any time soon, I feel like I have a purpose,” Hancock said.
The one thing he surely won’t do again is cut a lot of weight. He said he would be willing to be an advocate for fighter health and safety, to share his firsthand knowledge of how bad weight cutting can get.
“Weight cutting is really hard on our bodies and it’s a problem everywhere,” Hancock said. … “Even kids nowadays are cutting weight, in high school for wrestling. It’s just ridiculous. It’s one thing to diet down. I’m all for dieting down, but when you’re cutting 10 to 20 pounds of water weight in a sauna, it’s not healthy. It’s really hard on your body.”
Hancock began fighting as an amateur in 2013. Since turning pro, he is 2-3, including the loss to Ontiveros that was ruled a TKO defeat.
It has only been a few days since it all happened, but Hancock admitted to feeling a bit different already and not in a bad way. He literally has a new lease on life and plans to make the most out of it.
“I feel like somebody is looking out for me,” Hancock said. “Obviously there’s a reason I was brought back. I need to figure out what that is and go forward with it.”