'This is truly a bitter pill to swallow....We have lost one of us' - Conor McGregor speaks out after tragic death of MMA fighter
Irish UFC superstar Conor McGregor has spoken of his "heartbreak" at the death of fighter Joao Carvalho following a weekend fight.
In a statement, released on his Facebook page, the UFC featherweight champion said the death is a "bitter pill to swallow" for all those who love the sport.
News emerged this morning that Portuguese mixed martial artist Joao (28) had passed away in Beaumont Hospital following a welterweight bout with Charlie Ward at Total Extreme Fighting 1 in the National Stadium on Saturday night.
Ward (36), who is a stablemate of McGregor at Team SBG Ireland, won the fight by third round technical knockout.
McGregor was ringside for the bout and in a statement the impact this death will have on the divisive sport.
"To see a young man doing what he loves, competing for a chance at a better life, and then to have it taken away is truly heartbreaking.
"We are just men and women doing something we love in the hope of a better life for ourselves and our families. Nobody involved in combat sports of any kind wants to see this. It is such a rare occurrence that I don't know how to take this."
McGregor explained that he was ringside supporting his teammate on Saturday. He explained that the fight was "so back and forth, that I just can't understand it".
"My condolences go out to Joao's family and his team. Their man was a hell of a fighter and will be sorely missed by all.
"Combat sport is a crazy game and with the recent incident in boxing and now this in MMA, it is a sad time to be a fighter and a fight fan.
"It is easy for those on the outside to criticise our way of living, but for the millions of people around the world who have had their lives, their health, their fitness and their mental strength all changed for the better through combat, this is truly a bitter pill to swallow. We have lost one of us.
"I hope we remember Joao as a champion, who pursued his dream doing what he loved, and show him the eternal respect and admiration he deserves.
"Rest in peace, Joao."
Earlier Charlie Ward’s father, Charles snr, rang RTÉ Radio One’s Liveline this afternoon and expressed his condolences to the Carvalho family, but also to speak on his son’s behalf.
He said: "It’s very hard to say anything at this stage. The only point that I rang in was just to say, was that it’s alright you saying there were eight or nine blows, but the referee should have stopped that. It’s a different sport than boxing, and you know the consequences when you get in there.
“He said he knew he had the fight won; maybe the referee should have come in a bit quicker, I don’t know. “