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MMA fighter suffers traumatic brain injury, tracheal collapse in Detroit Lakes

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – A mixed martial arts bout here Saturday night left a fighter with a traumatic brain injury and collapsed windpipe.

The injury came during the main event, a 155-pound professional fight between Dan “The King” Kiser and Frankie Johnson at the Kent Freeman Arena in Detroit Lakes.

After Johnson landed a left hook early in the fight, along with several up-kicks, he managed to put a rear naked chokehold on Kiser, and the referee stopped the fight after seeing Kiser was knocked out.

Kiser was still unresponsive after the bell rang, and he was taken to a hospital in Detroit Lakes, then to Fargo’s Sanford Medical Center, where he remained Thursday night.

“Dan did suffer a traumatic brain injury and had surgery the night of the fight to help drain fluid and relieve pressure and swelling on his brain,” said Ben Pherson, who runs MN MMA News, a website devoted to mixed martial arts in Minnesota.

On Pherson’s website, Kiser’s father, Dan Kiser Sr., said his son continues to battle his injuries.

“He is out of the woods as far as fighting for staying here on earth; he turned that hard corner,” the elder Kiser said. “Now, he’s fighting for things like how much rehab he’s going to have to do. The word the doctors use is ‘deficits.’

“How many deficits will he have when this is done? That’s what he’s fighting for now.”

On Thursday, Kiser’s manager, Jeremy Bjornberg, said his fighter had been taken off life support and was breathing on his own.

“Dan’s heroically battling some very high odds,” Bjornberg said. “So far, he is miraculously progressing.”

But Bjornberg cautioned that Kiser’s condition was still serious.

“It’s just so early to say what’s going to happen and what isn’t from what the doctors are telling his family,” said Bjornberg, who had been in contact with Kiser’s relatives.

A website on was established to raise money for Kiser, and by Thursday night, well-wishers had pledged more than $4,300. The site said Kiser has two young daughters.

“Dan has not only been a great fighter that many people have looked up to, he has been an amazing friend, teammate and mentor in the MMA community,” the site said.

Bjornberg said Kiser, who’s in his mid-20s, lives in Wisconsin and trains at Spartan Martial Arts Gym in Oakdale, Minn. Kiser entered Saturday’s bout with a 12-3 record as a professional, according to MN MMA News.

It’s not clear exactly how Kiser received his injuries in the fight. Bjornberg described it as a freak occurrence.

Chris Nelson, promoter for the Dakota Fighting Championships, said Minnesota’s rules that required having a doctor, ambulance and paramedics at the fight likely saved Kiser’s life.

“It’s unfortunate,” Nelson said of Kiser’s injuries. “But luckily they had regulations in place.”

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