Family of MMA fighter who drowned in Red River hopes to keep memory alive

Mother says son's death has been ruled accidental

Dane Sayers with his son, Aden. Photo circa 2011
Dane Sayers is seen in this 2011 photo with his son, Aden Sayers. Special to The Forum
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FARGO — The world of mixed martial arts remembered 33-year-old Dane Sayers on Monday, June 7, as a successful competitor who compiled a 12-4 record as a professional fighter.

But his mother, Bonnie, remembered her son for other things as well, not the least of which, she said, was his good heart.

"We loved him very much," she said, referring to her son, whose body was found Saturday, June 5, by kayakers in the Red River near Riverside Cemetery in south Fargo.

Fargo police said Monday that an autopsy had been completed, but no additional details have officially been released.

Bonnie Sayers said authorities have informed the family that her son's death has been ruled an accidental drowning.


She said one of the things her son loved to do was search riverbanks for driftwood, which he gave away to a variety of people who would use the gift for everything from creating works of art to adorning wedding venues.

Sometimes, she said, her son would make driftwood sculptures of his own and leave them along trails near the river to surprise and delight hikers.

Dane Sayers was born at home in Moorhead, Minn., and did much of his growing up in West Fargo, where he took part in many sports and graduated from high school in 2006, according to his mother.

Sayers said her son viewed his career as a professional fighter, which started in about 2008 and largely concluded around 2018, as a continuation of his athletic life.

Dane Sayers was proud of his Native American heritage, according to his father, Dale Sayers, who noted his son is both Blackfeet and Chippewa and an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe.

During his fighting career, Dane Sayers was referred to as Red Horse, a name given to him by Chief Earl Old Person of the Blackfeet Nation.

His career as a fighter included competing on season 12 of the reality television series, "The Ultimate Fighter."

Dylan Spicer, who for a time coached Sayers at the Academy of Combat Arts in Fargo, remembered his friend Monday as a good man who was also very tough.


"He was a really nice guy, so I don't know that intimidating is the right word, but on the mat he was like a tank. He was hard to move," Spicer said, adding that Sayers never got hurt in a sport where injury is very common.

In addition to physical competitions, Sayers' parents say their son also worked in IT support positions throughout his life, including work for a Microsoft vendor.

"He loved to play chess. He loved to play Scrabble," Bonnie Sayers said, adding that her son once played chess with Georges St-Pierre, a Canadian former professional mixed martial artist widely regarded as one of the greatest fighters in the sport's history.

Dane bested St-Pierre at the game and to acknowledge the victory St.-Pierre gave her son a chessboard, Sayers said, noting that her son clearly had a presence about him.

"He was really charming. He was handsome. He was funny. When he smiled, it would just light up a room, she said.

"We're going to spend our life making sure his memory is always kept alive," she added.

A celebration of life for Dane Sayers is planned for June 25, but details have yet to be worked out, his mother said.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

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