Arrests in murder of Jewish MMA fighter Aaron Rajman

The 'Matzah Brawler' sometimes entered the ring wearing a yarmulka and tzitzis


Police in Florida have charged three teenagers with the murder of the mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Aaron Rajman, who was shot dead at his home in Boca Raton in July.

Nicknamed the "Matzah Brawler", Mr Rajman was one of few Orthodox Jews who was also a professional MMA fighter and is reported to have frequently entered the ring wearing a yarmulka and tzitzis. 

Mr Rajman, who was 25 at the time of his death, described himself as "somewhat of an observant Jew" and worshipped at at Chabad synagogue, telling the MMA Futures website in 2015 that he began his day with Torah studies before heading to the gym.

Authorities do not consider Mr Rajman's murder to be a hate crime and previously said it was not related to his faith. The three teenagers — named as Summer Church, Roberto Ortiz and Jace Swinton — have been charged with first-degree murder and "home invasion with a firearm or other deadly weapon".

Born in the Bronx, New York, Mr Rajman moved to Florida as a child and became involved in organised kick-boxing and MMA. He fought in the featherweight division and, with an amateur record of eight wins and one defeat, turned professional in April 2014. He won two professional fights and lost two and was ranked 26th in his class in Florida.

“He was very strong in his faith, and he was a very good person,” Rabbi Zalman Bukiet of the Chabad of West Boca Raton told the 7 News Miami TV channel. “This was a special young man who had a heart of gold. It is a tragedy and extremely painful for the family; painful for everyone who knew him.”

An online campaign set up after Mr Rajman's murder raised close to $30,000 to pay for his funeral and a plot at the West Boca Raton Chabad, where he was buried next to his father.

Mr Rajman was due to start work this month as an instructor for the StreetSmart programme being held at Jewish schools and synagogues in Florida. 

"Aaron was a humble human being, a true mensch, who carried out many good deeds in a quiet and discreet manner," said David Karpel, the head instructor of the StreetSmart programme, who is attempting to set up a student fellowship in Mr Rajman's memory.

MMA is growing in popularity in Israel, with the first ever world title bout scheduled to be hosted in the country in November. The Russian welterweight champion Andrey Koreshov is scheduled to face Brazil's Douglas Lima in Tel Aviv.

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