LONDON: A Muslim kickboxer who died after sustaining a blow to the head in 2019 was matched against a “much bigger” opponent, her family have told an inquest.
Saeideh Aletaha, 26, collapsed in a bathroom and died the day after being knocked out by her opponent Janie Morgan, 34, in a mixed martial arts fight in November 2019.
Aletaha’s family described her as “slim,” and said Morgan was “very clearly stronger” and “more muscled.”
Morgan did not attend Monday’s inquest, but said in a statement that she had hugged Aletaha after the fight and that she was “shocked” when she heard she had died.
“We both agreed that it was a good fight, she thanked me and said well done,” Morgan added. “I apologised as well ... It is a full contact sport but I do not want to seriously hurt anyone.”
Aletaha, from Salisbury in the south of England, had previously said she wanted to prove to people that a “Muslim lady” can compete in extreme sports even if she is wearing a hijab.
During the inquest, the University of Loughborough graduate’s brothers Ali and Amir raised concerns of a potential mismatch between Aletaha and her opponent.
Aletaha’s family said: “In her chosen sport, Saeideh always used to send her picture with her opponent before each match. However, we did note that 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 would have certainly 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 Sepideh that she was stressed but never mentioned the reason.”
The event organizer, Richard Harding, denied that there was a mismatch, saying Aletaha had more experience than her opponent and both fighters weighed 54 kg.
He denied that Aletaha was at an innate disadvantage due to her body shape compared with Morgan, saying she was a “movement-based” fighter who used speed in her fights, while Morgan was “top heavy” and would seek to “hit Ms Aletaha hard.”
Aletaha’s family described her as “friendly and full of energy,” saying: “Even from childhood, she was always dedicated to whatever she was doing and always seeking success, putting 110 percent to her goals.
“She was a person who was confident but modest, emotional but stable, friendly, open minded and full of energy who could win everyone’s heart.”
They added: “We were surprised by the number of people in the UK who told us that she had influenced their life and career, and their way of thinking.”
The inquest into her death will continue at Southampton Crown Court on Tuesday.