When light heavyweight Cyrille "Snake" Diabaté stepped into the cage against Jimi Manuwa at UFC on Fuel TV 7, it was potentially for the last time in his career. At 39 years old, with 29 MMA fights and 51 kickboxing matches already behind him, it looked like the perfect time to wrap things up.
He was coming off one of the best camps of his career, and a win over Manuwa would make it three in a row. But, as is often the way of such things, fate intervened. He sat down with BE to talk about his recent injuries and why he thinks they're just what his career needed.
Last time we saw you, you got hurt inside the cage. How are you feeling?
I'm doing rehab every day, in a very very expensive and high-tech sports science facility here in France, so I'm seeing the right people. What happened is, I have a history of tendonitis in my left Achilles tendon, and warming up for my last fight in the locker room I partially tore my Achilles tendon. With the adrenaline and every thing, I thought I could go with it. Somewhere, I'd say close to the second minute of the fight I tore my calf muscle. The two muscles in my calf just split apart and it was very painful. As it was, going in there with the Achilles tendon tear, it just got worse and worse and I had to, unfortunately, abandon the fight.
You knew you were injured before the fight. What made you say, "Screw it, I'm just going to do it anyway"?
The thing is, against someone like... You can't win a fight against a dangerous striker only defending. My game plan was obviously to bring the fight to him and be the attacker in the fight. You can't do that when your back leg, your rear leg, the one that you use to push yourself forward in order to attack, if it's not responding and you can't push yourself forward, throw your punches your kicks or whatever it is, it becomes a very hard situation. The only thing I could do was try and move around and defend myself. Attacking Jimi wasn't an option anymore, so after that it's pretty logical. Plus the pain factor, all those things... it was a losing situation for me, I shouldn't have injured myself in the first place.
So, basically you sustained two injuries within an hour.
Yeah, the first injury was a fifteen centimeter, over five inches of partial tear in my Achilles tendon. So even if it wasn't very deep it was very long; it was going all up my leg. And then just compensating the Achilles tendon injury, just moving around, I tore my calf muscle. And of course, with the history of tendonitis, I've been warned of an Achilles tear for the last year, and I was worried that I was not going to do a partial tear, but just rip it off, kind of thing. You know, pain and everything, I was like, "No I can't do this anymore. I can't just limp around in a fight with Jimi Manuwa against me."
Do you kind of want to finish what you started when you come back, fight him again?
You know what, before coming into the fight I was really thinking about retiring, just because I've been doing it for such a long time and it's hard for me to get the motivation I need to train hard in the gym and everything. This camp was probably one of my best, in terms of training hard, I've had for a very very long time. I've got a great strength and conditioning coach called Gavin, who pushed my to my wits and to my limits. I went in there re-motivated, and just having to end the fight like that was so frustrating, knowing that I'd been training for two and a half months at such an intense pace. So, if my motivation was a problem at one point, right now I'm more motivated than I have been in a very very long time. I just want to be in there healthy and show the fans that I'm not finished. And I want to prove to people that my last fight wasn't me at my best, it wasn't me 100% healthy.
It sounds like, being on the shelf, you've got the spark to continue your career, even more than just one fight.
And plus it shows me... I've been doing nothing apart from the rehabbing for the last month. It shows me as well, it reminds me how much I love this sport. Just to be on the shelf, like you said, being able to do nothing is just frustrating right now. I still feel like I've got part of that conditioning I got from the last camp and I'm just limping around and trying to get healthy again. Right now I'm really really in a hurry to get back in there, do another training camp, be healthy again, 100% healthy, and go back in there and show the fans who I truly am. I just want to be healthy, fast, and have a big fight.
How far away would you say you are from coming back?
It's hard to say right now. I've just learned that there's some blood that needs to be drained out of my calf that's preventing the healing from being 100%. I've got to have that drained out, and then hopefully I'll be healing quickly. I just need to be patient and do what it takes to rehab fast. I'm doing a lot of things I didn't even imagine existed, like cryotherapy, where you're in a cold room and it's -165° and you stay in there for three minutes and it's supposed to speed up your healing. I'm taking it seriously; I'm going to see the best doctors we have, and hopefully they'll have me 100% healthy.
Something else that gave me more motivation is the doctor saying "Well, from the looks of things, you've been fighting at 60 or 70% for the last ten years with your tendinitis. If you go... if you're serious about your rehabbing you can be back to close to 80 or 90% healthy again and hopefully you'll have better performances than you have had the last couple of years." When a well known doctor tells you that kind of thing it gets you pumped up and motivated.
You're 40, is TRT something you'd consider?
I've never cheated in my life, whether it's MMA or sports or playing cards or whatever. I just believe that the only person you're cheating is yourself. I'm a competitor; I'm going in there... I'm a true athlete, I'm going in there to challenge myself. I'm not going in there to win no matter what. I want to challenge myself and prove to myself that I can beat the guy standing in front of me. If I'm cheating, what good does that do to me. I don't believe in it; to me TRT is a legal form of cheating, if that makes any sense. If I'm going to do chemicals one day, it's after my fighting career. Again, I'm a true athlete, I think it's cheating.
So, unless you have health issues, and you need it... I know that exists as well, I know that people have some kind of problem producing the normal quantities of testosterone. I understand they need that kind of therapy, but if you're just using it to be stronger and quicker and faster than your opponent, that's cheating; so I'm not doing that.
Any other messages for your fans?
Big hello to all my fans, hello to the Snake Team in Paris. If you guys are in Paris and want to get some quality training, we're just outside in the suburbs. Snake Team, look it up on the internet, you're more than welcome to come by.
You can follow Cyrille on twitter: @CyrilleDiabate
And find "The Snake Team" here.