Dillon Cleckler issues statement honoring Justin Thornton after BKFC opponent’s death

Dillon Cleckler has released a statement following the death of Justin Thornton, who died of injuries sustained during their Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship bout this past August.

Thornton’s death was announced Monday in a statement from BKFC President Dave Feldman. The boxer, who had also competed in MMA, was the victim of a brutal knockout in his fight with Cleckler at BKFC 20 that left Thornton partially paralyzed. He was hospitalized with a spinal cord injury and remained there in the weeks following the Aug. 20 event as he also dealt with an infection.

On Tuesday, Cleckler issued a statement on Instagram honoring Thornton, a fighter who he had a personal relationship with. The two first fought in an MMA contest back in February 2016, with Cleckler also winning that bout.

“Some of you may not of heard yet but my last opponent Justin Thornton passed away last night due to pneumonia,” Thornton wrote. “I can’t help but feel absolutely devastated about this because I’ve known Justin for years. Not many people know this but we fought eight years ago and he told me right away he wanted the rematch. I know that when he got the phone call to finally get that rematch on a bigger stage he saw a huge opportunity and took it. Justin is a warrior.

“It’s in his blood to fight. He loved it. He fought anyone, anytime, and anywhere and when I didn’t have an opponent, he still jumped at the opportunity to get in there with me again. Any man or woman who steps in the ring or the cage is special, they take a risk that 99.99 percent of the world would never take and sometimes I still don’t know why we do it … but Justin was a fighter his entire life and deserves nothing but respect! My thoughts and prayers are with Justin Thornton and his family at this time. RIP warrior.”

Thornton was 38 years old.

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