MMA Star Dead at 33 After ‘Eating Poisoned Watermelon’

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Kohjiro Kinno /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

Russian MMA star Alexander Pisarev has died unexpectedly at the young age of 33. According to preliminary reports, the fighter died after eating poisoned watermelon. Tragically, Pisarev was found dead by his father in his Moscow apartment on October 30.

As an anonymous member of the MMA star’s Tomahawk team reported, “Alexander Pisarev died in his sleep and did not have any chronic health problems. According to preliminary data, death was the result of food poisoning.”

Multiple Russian media outlets have reported that Pisarev died after eating the watermelon with his wife, who is currently hospitalized. However, the pair shared other food products as well, so the poisoned watermelon remains a theory.

The MMA star’s father, Igor Vladimirovich, explained that he took the family dog for a walk after their meal. Upon returning to the apartment, he checked in on his son. Though he first thought Alexander was sleeping, he soon realized that his son was no longer breathing.

“I looked into the room – Alexander and his wife were sleeping,” Vladimirovich told Pravda, a Russian media outlet. “I came closer and then realized that my son was no longer breathing.”

Pisarev’s father then called an ambulance for his wife, who was rushed to the hospital with apparent food poisoning.

Contaminated Watermelon Skin Could Have Resulted in MMA Star’s Death

The MMA star’s official cause of death has yet to be announced, but Alexander Pisarev’s father maintains that he was perfectly healthy leading up to the incident. “He had fractures of the fingers after the last fights,” Vladimirovich explained. “But this is nothing. We all eat the same food, we live together.”

Though melons don’t naturally contain illness-causing bacteria, their outer skin can become contaminated in rare instances. As melons grow close to the ground, it’s possible for their skin to pick up bacteria from the earth. But contamination can also occur during and after harvest if the farmer’s hands aren’t clean or during storage and/or transportation.

A Salmonella outbreak in Norway, for example, was believed to be caused by contaminated watermelons. Thankfully, only 20 people were affected and none died, but victims of Salmonella and other bacteria aren’t always so lucky.

The Moscow Region Investigative Committee is looking into the MMA star’s death and hopes an autopsy will provide answers. “In Balashikha, an investigation was organized into the death of an athlete as a result of poisoning,” they said. “Investigators, with the participation of a forensic specialist, are conducting an additional inspection of the scene, confiscating items relevant to the investigation, and planning a forensic chemical examination.”

Alexander Pisarev will be greatly missed by his family and his Tomahawk teammates, who shared a statement following the heartbreaking news of his death. “My brother, my friend, my student!” they wrote. “Words cannot express the extent of the loss. Alexander Pisarev is the standard of friendship, decency, and courage of a Russian person. I and we will miss you!!! Rest in peace our brother.”