Dana White, president of the UFC, is mourning the untimely death of a 16-year-old superfan whose final days he brightened with free all-access passes to fights and video calls with his mixed martial arts heroes.
The teen, Michael Schneider, had been a wrestler before being diagnosed with cancer at age 11 and was given months to live, according to the UFC. But he hung on for years, and the UFC became a favorite that his whole family would watch together.
Earlier this year White caught wind of a GoFundMe campaign that aimed to get Schneider to UFC 279 and meet White, according to the UFC. White “jumped on it and got him there,” he wrote on social media.
Schneider was diagnosed with a stage-four neuroblastoma – a cancer of the nerve cells – that had already metastasized throughout his body, according to an earlier GoFundMe campaign that raised $246,372 for his treatment.
That campaign described Schneider as “one of the most fun-loving, goofy, polite, caring, smart, athletic and tough kids” those who knew him had met. White agreed: “This kid was SO AWESOME I immediately loved him.”
So awesome, in fact, that White invited Schneider to UFC 281 in New York City, where the teen sat directly behind legendary fighter Mike Tyson, and his favorite fighter, Israel Adesanya, was the main event, the UFC said.
Tyson was generous with the teen, and White showed his appreciation: “I f-ckin love u Mike Tyson!!! Without being told anything Mike treated Michael so good and took pics with him etc.”
Schneider never took off the wristbands he was issued at either event, according to the UFC, and may have worn them until his death on Thursday, which White was moved to announce on social media.
“Amazing, incredible, beautiful little Michael passed away today and I’m f-ckin devastated,” he wrote. “I will never forget him.”