Justin Eilers. Photo property of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Former UFC heavyweight title challenger Justin Eilers was reportedly shot and killed after a domestic disturbance during a holiday celebration with family and friends in Nampa, Idaho on Thursday night. Eilers was 30 years old.
According to a Sherdog.com report quoting Eilers’ longtime manager, Monte Cox, Canyon County, Idaho law enforcement officials were called to a home where they found the Miletich Fighting Systems product wounded and unresponsive. Attempts to revive Eilers were unsuccessful and he was later pronounced dead at the scene.
Eilers apparently refused to leave the residence after being involved in an altercation with an ex-girlfriend. After reportedly throwing various objects at the home’s owner, he brandished a gun and shot one time in the chest. The Associated Press is reporting that James Robert Malec has been arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder. Malec is believed to be the boyfriend of Eilers’ mother.
After becoming a college football star as a middle linebacker at Iowa State University and after several failed tryouts with multiple NFL teams, Eilers was convinced to start training in mixed martial arts by close friend Jens Pulver. He quickly joined up with Pat Miletich’s Iowa-based training team and went on to win eight out of his first eleven fights.
Eilers’ early success resulting in him signing a multi-fight deal with the UFC after just two years as a professional. He was victorious in his debut fight with the promotion, scoring a first-round knockout of Mike Kyle at UFC 49.
Despite being stopped by Paul Buentello in his next UFC bout, Eilers was called on to challenge Andrei Arlovski for the interim UFC heavyweight title at UFC 53 in June 2005, but ended up losing the bout after tearing his ACL during the fight’s opening minutes.
The Idaho native would go on to lose to Brandon Vera at UFC 57 and with three straight losses inside the Octagon, was promptly released from the organization. However, Eilers soon found success in smaller shows, winning ten out of eleven fights during a two year time-period in which his only loss came at the hands of fellow UFC veteran Pedro Rizzo.
Eilers’ last professional bout was a second-round TKO loss to Antonio Silva at EliteXC’s “Unfinished Business” event this past July. After the defeat, Eilers revealed that he was planning on dropping down to the light heavyweight division in the near future.
During a six-year professional career, Eilers compiled an impressive 19-7-1 record and will be missed by everyone in the mixed martial arts community. Everyone here at MMA on Tap would like to send their best wishes to Eilers’ friends and family during this obviously difficult time.
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