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UFC 199: Kevin Casey, Muhammad Ali’s son-in-law, fights to split draw

Kevin Casey fought at UFC 199 one day after the death of father-in-law Muhammad Ali. (Getty Images)INGLEWOOD, Calif. — It’s been an emotional 24 hours for Kevin Casey.

The 34-year-old middleweight stepped inside the Octagon at UFC 199 one day following the death of his father-in-law, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, who died Friday night of septic shock “due to unspecified natural causes" at the age of 74.

Casey is married to Hana Ali, Muhammad’s daughter with his third wife, Veronica Porsche, and is the older sister of Laila Ali. Instead of pulling out of the fight at the last minute, Casey fulfilled his UFC obligations and fought Elvis Mutapcic to a split draw (29-28, 28-29, 28-28) at The Forum on Saturday night.

“It’s a lot to go through before a fight,” Casey told Joe Rogan after the fight. “Thank you guys for the support and God bless my family.”

In addition to fighting in his hometown of Inglewood for the first time, Casey had the opportunity to fight at the same arena as Ali. On Sept. 10, 1973, Ali stepped inside the ring at The Forum and defeated Ken Norton by split decision to regain the NABF heavyweight title.

Six months prior, Norton not only defeated Ali for the NABF title in San Diego, but also broke Ali’s jaw in the process. It was only Ali’s second loss of his career and first since returning from a three-plus year suspension for refusing U.S. military service.

Casey controlled the first round and a half of the fight by executing two successful takedowns. Mutapcic was able to escape from Casey’s mount with less than two minutes in the second round and landed several knees while in the clinch.

Mutapcic’s striking was on display in the early part of the third round, as Casey appeared to be running out of gas. Both fighters would get a quick breather after Mutapcic was the recipient of an inadvertent eye-poke from Casey with less than three minutes remaining in the fight. The eye-poke did nothing to change the momentum as Mutapcic mounted Casey and delivered multiple elbows in the final 30 seconds. Judge Derek Clearly was impressed enough by Mutapcic’s offense that he scored the final round 10-8, resulting in the split draw.

“I knew he was going to be motivated,” Mutapcic said after the fight. “Muhammad Ali is the greatest of all time and that’s his father-in-law. I feel like Kevin had a little more to prove because he married into the family and he was going to want to make a statement.”

Despite not walking out of The Forum with a victory, Casey should be satisfied in knowing he’s able to compete in a sport that Ali indirectly helped influence. Ali’s exhibition fight with Japanese pro wrestler Antonio Inoki in 1976 brought together two men with two different combat skill sets.

Casey has had the opportunity to spend time with Muhammad Ali in recent years and he explained to UFC.com what the first meeting was like:

“It was this unbelievable feeling,” Casey said. “It was hard to even look directly at him. I literally felt the energy coming off of him.” Soon, Casey and Ali were sitting together, watching fight tapes. “I’m still not looking directly at him,” he laughs. “I’m looking out of the side of my eye and I see him and he’s throwing punches, and it’s great.” It got better. “About an hour into being there, my wife, Hana, her best friend is Kenisha Norton, daughter of Ken Norton, and then there’s a knock at the door, and Ken Norton walks in. They moved to the card table, and there’s Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton playing cards together. It was an unreal feeling.”

Even though she wasn’t in attendance for her husband’s fight, Hana did provide some moral support via Facebook:

Casey, who took part in “The Ultimate Fighter: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen,” is now 1-2-1 with two no contests in the UFC.

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