Family of woman killed in cage fight express ‘mismatch’ concerns

The family of a mixed martial arts enthusiast who died after a blow to the head in a cage fight have expressed concern that she was “mismatched” with an opponent bigger and more muscular than her.

Saeideh Aletaha, a 26-year-old graduate, collapsed in a bathroom at the Central Hall in Southampton following a knock-out in the third round of the contest.

At an inquest in Winchester, her family claimed her opponent, personal trainer Janie Morgan, 34, seemed bigger and stronger than Aletaha.

They claimed Aletaha seemed concerned about her opponent and stressed by the prospect of the contest. In a statement read out during the inquest, Aletaha’s family said: “Saeideh always used to send her picture with her opponent before each match. However, for her last match she had cut the picture of her opponent and sent only her own picture.

“We now think that if she had shared her opponent’s picture, Amir [her brother] would have commented about their physical differences and the fact her opponent seemed bigger and more muscled. The night before the match she had mentioned to her sister that she was stressed but never mentioned the reason.”

The inquest was told that the fight was tight and intense, though all three judges had Morgan winning the second round. Aletaha was knocked out in the third and after collapsing was rushed to Southampton general hospital and died on 17 November 2019.

Her family said Aletaha was born in Iran but moved to the UK to study at university and stayed to work. She was living in Salisbury when she died and worked as a product engineer.

Her family said part of her motivation for fighting was to prove that a Muslim woman wearing a hijab could take part in extreme sports.

The promoter of the event, Richard Harding, rejected any suggestion of a mismatch. He said the two women were of similar weight and height although Aletaha had a little more experience. Harding said Aletaha relied on speed while Morgan relied more on power and sought to hit her opponent hard.

Amir Aletaha questioned Harding about Morgan’s physique, suggesting: “It’s very clear that [Ms Morgan] is much stronger.” He also asked why Morgan had asked for them to fight without shinpads, claiming that an attack on this part of the body by Morgan could have affected one of his sister’s key weapons, her speed.

Harding replied that Morgan was “top heavy” while Aletaha’s body weight was much more evenly distributed. He said he did not believe fighting without shinpads would have put Aletaha in greater danger.

The promoter said the event, which was part of the Fast and Furious fight series, adhered to strict safety guidelines and the matchmaking process had taken months. “I was satisfied that they were evenly matched,” he said.

Harding told the inquest the competitors took part for the love of the sport rather than to make money and no profit was made from putting on the shows.

He added: “Losing someone like this is hard for everyone. We put these on to give a spectacle and this is the absolute worst thing that could happen but I’m fully confident that we did as much as we could.”

The inquest continues.

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