South Bay MMA fighter survives massive fall from highway 87

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A local MMA fighter and beloved children's martial arts coach who was found close to death in the Guadalupe River near San Fernando St. under the Highway 87 overpass is recovering from multiple surgeries.

Sam Romero, 23, was discovered by a jogger who was passing through the area Monday morning, just days after he lost a professional MMA bout over the weekend.

"Being in the Guadalupe River overnight and being able to survive that is just a testament to his fighting spirit," said Morgan Hill resident Billy Barnes, one of Romero's good friends.

In addition to hypothermia, Romero was found with multiple fractures, a collapsed lung, broken vertebrae, and swelling in his brain. He is now out of a coma and will undergo another surgery later this week.

San Jose Police believe Romero fell dozens of feet from the actual highway. How he got there in the first place is now under investigation by the California Highway Patrol.

As a beloved children's instructor at Claudio Franca Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in San Jose, Romero's colleagues are now planning a number of fundraisers on his behalf.

"Shock and disbelief. People keep walking in (asking) is this really happening?" said Erik Benaquisto, owner of Claudio Franca Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, where Romero trained and taught.

A family friend has also set up a GoFundMe account to help with medical expenses. Romero is expected to be out of work for the next several months.

"With him, it's fighting-- it's his sport and you get him in his environment on the cage and around the ring, it's like dang, this dude is really motivated," said family friend Darnell Sankey.

Doctors are optimistic that Romero will be able to walk again.

"Samuel wants everybody to know he appreciates the love, but right now, he wants to rest man, he's in some pain, you know, but God willing it, he's going to get through it," said Nick Romero, Sam's older brother.
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