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Benefit fit for ‘The King’: MMA fighter making progress after brain injury

Dan Kiser Sr. helps prepare spaghetti sauce for one of the three meals served during the Sunday benefit for his son, Dan “The King” Kiser, at The Venue at The Hub in south Fargo. Carrie Snyder / The Forum1 / 2
Dan "The King" Kiser Jr.2 / 2

FARGO - Almost exactly a month ago, Dan Kiser Jr.’s family was told he wouldn’t make it through the night after he was critically injured in a mixed martial arts fight.

Now featherweight champion “The King,” a 27-year-old father of two who lives in Milltown, Wis., is awake, talking and walking with the help of a nurse and a walker.

His father, Dan Kiser Sr. of Fargo, said his son’s plight has earned him a new nickname – “The Mini Miracle.”

Kiser Jr. suffered a traumatic brain injury and collapsed wind pipe during his May 24 fight with Frankie Johnson in Detroit Lakes, Minn. He remains in the Sanford health care system, where he receives neurological, speech, physical and occupational therapy.

“His neurologist, who did the three brain surgeries, plus his trauma-care doctor, have told the family on three different occasions that he now has the nickname ‘The Mini Miracle’ because they believe they should be talking about my son in the past tense,” Kiser Sr. said.

He said his son’s physical condition and training have helped him get this far.

“I knew that (his medical team) didn’t know my son like I know my son. He’s an athlete and a fighter, and I knew that if anybody in this world could pull through this, it’d be him,” he said.

Kiser Sr. said his progress is slow but steady, and although he’s exceeded doctors’ expectations, it’s still unclear exactly how his quality of life will be affected.

Kiser Jr.’s family and friends organized an all-day, all-night benefit Sunday at The Venue at The Hub in Fargo to help defray his medical costs. The MMA community and the Red River Valley and beyond came out in full force.

Midafternoon Sunday, the lower level of The Venue was filled with rows of donated silent auction items, the upper level with donated baked goods, and live music came from the main stage as Kiser Sr. readied for the night’s spaghetti dinner feed.

The benefit started with a pancake feed from 8 to 11 a.m., included a chili cook-off featuring 14 different competitors, and had three bands and a comedy show on tap for the night.

Chad Curle of Bismarck, owner of Impact Fighting Championships, said he was impressed with the outpouring of support but wasn’t surprised by it.

“I’m willing to do anything I can to help. Fortunately, there’s a whole bunch of people who feel exactly the same way,” he said.

Curle, who visits Kiser Jr. every weekend, said the champion’s biggest goal right now is to go home to his fiancee and two little girls.

“When I talked to him on Saturday, I told him, ‘This is just like any other fight you’ve gone into,’ ” he said.

A website to help “The King” and his family has also been set up at with a goal of raising $25,000. As of Sunday evening, the site had raised $10,220.

Meredith Holt

Meredith Holt is a features/business reporter for The Forum who covers topics in health, mental health, social issues, women's issues, arts and entertainment, food and more. She also writes a column on health and wellness, body image and media representationShe was a copy editor/page designer for six years prior to joining the features team in March 2012.

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