Adam Zugec says there’s a common saying among boxing and mixed martial arts trainers that fighters need to be protected from themselves.
“My job as a coach is to make sure that fighters don’t put themselves in positions where they could get hurt,” he said.
On Friday night in Edmonton, Zugec was in Victoria resident Adam Braidwood’s corner when the fighter delivered what proved to be a fatal blow to Tim Hague in the second round of their heavyweight bout. Hague, an ex-UFC fighter who had reportedly been knocked out in a fight as recently as December, died two days later.
Rip brother you will live in my heart forever. I will fight for us both now, I know that's what you would have wanted. pic.twitter.com/H682h6rwJu
— Adam Braidwood (@BraidwoodBoxing) June 19, 2017
Zugec, who trains fighters out of Zuma Martial Arts and Fitness in Vic West, spoke to the importance of the relationship between trainer and fighter in an interview with Black Press on Tuesday, while making it clear that he wasn’t familiar with Hague’s coaching situation.
“I’ve had people decide to not train with me because I wouldn’t let them fight, and I’m okay with that … I treat every situation that my fighters are in as though they could die and I think when you take it that seriously, you take precautions,” he said.
Days later, the events that transpired that night still didn’t feel real for Zugec, who says he gave Hague a hug and wished him well moments before the start of the fateful bout.
I can't believe Tim Hague has died. I'm so very sorry to his family and everyone close to him. Tragic and upsetting #riptimhague
— Sarah Kaufman (@mmasarah) June 18, 2017
“I really am at a loss. I’ve lost a friend and I think right now we’re just really concerned for Tim’s family and we’re concerned for [Braidwood],” he said. “Here’s a guy that’s changing his life through boxing and now this happens.”
Braidwood, a former first overall pick of the Edmonton Eskimos, took up boxing after serving time in prison for a sexual assault charge. By all accounts, the 32 year-old has gotten his life together since then and found redemption in the ring.
“I take responsibility for everything that I did,” he told the Montreal Gazette earlier this year.
“I have guilt about the whole thing. A lot of people have to live with the damage [I inflicted]. I hurt a lot of people I care about. I’ll never really be proud of myself.”
Braidwood appeared to be on the verge of tears when he put out a video statement on his Instagram account yesterday offering his condolences to Hague’s family and asking the public to support them.
“Tim and I were friends. We spoke beforehand. We just wanted to make a beautiful fight for everyone,” he said.
Zugec says that he, Braidwood and fellow trainer Sarah Kaufman have leaned on each other over the past few days and that they are receiving counselling. He added that the support Braidwood has received from the public has helped.
“I think the support has made all the difference in the world. It would be so easy for someone to succumb to something like this, and I know I did. My first reaction was ‘that’s it, I’m done. I’m never coaching a professional fighter again,’” Zugec said.
“At least in my experience it’s been 100 per cent support [from] people really authentically hurting for us, knowing that we are all friends and that we were friends with Tim and that this is the last thing we wanted.”