Mike Chiesa just pulled out of his first fight due to a ruptured disc. His July 13th showdown with long-time rival, Tony Ferguson was set to be the main event in a brand new locale for the UFC, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Some of you might remember the TUF 15 winner missing his scheduled Seattle UFC debut in December 2012, but he never actually pulled out of that fight. He was forced off the card by UFC physicians after a "weird mark" on his back turned out to be a staph infection.
Since then, Chiesa has fought eight times without incident, and has prided himself on being both physically and spiritually strong. He spoke candidly to Bloody Elbow this evening about how hard it was making that call.
"This is the first time I've ever actually had to like, tell ‘em, you know what I mean? This is one of those things where you call them and say, ‘Hey, I've got a ruptured disc,' and you know you're not going to be fighting. There's no question about it."
After lobbying for the fight with Ferguson, it was especially difficult to have to call it off, and if he'd had a choice of any bout in his career to pull away from, this would be the last on the list.
"Obviously, I'm gutted. I've always prided myself on being very durable, both spiritually and physically. Everyone has seen the things I went through on The Ultimate Fighter -the stuff with my dad. When I fought on the UFC 157 card, I had knee surgery five weeks prior to that.
Since I've been in the UFC, I've fought with hand fractures, I've fought right after a surgery and I've fought recovering from infections. I can't believe that my body finally sustained something that I can't actually battle through, and of course it would have to be for this fight.
This fight has champion implications and it has very personal value to me with it being my first main event, and just being against a world class guy like Tony Ferguson, whom I have a lot of respect for. I was really looking forward to testing myself against him, to see what I'm really made of. It's tough to find any upside or positive aspect here, and I've been looking pretty hard for one. Where is the light in the tunnel? I'm certainly not seeing it right now."
Chiesa went on to describe the circumstances surrounding his unfortunate injury, and like many before him that have experienced serious injury, he was having a great training session and just happened to have a freak accident.
"I was at one of my strength and conditioning workouts. We weren't going for time, we weren't doing anything out of the norm. I was doing a standard tire flip, which is something I do very regularly. My form was great, I wasn't rushing...it was just one of those freak things where you don't really know how fatigued your body is. I was about half way through the workout and I felt great. I was having a f*cking great workout. I was firing on all cylinders, and just BAM! It happened out of nowhere.
That's how it happens for everybody. You never hear anyone say, ‘It felt like I was about to blow my ACL and then BOOM! I blew my ACL.' It never goes down like that [laughs]. It's really more a situation where you feel good, and all the sudden you turn wrong or land wrong or throw wrong, and you're injured.
I went to flip the tire, and right when I got it up off the ground, I felt a pop and a shift. It was followed by a sharp pain and I just hit the floor. I was laying there on the ground trying to figure out what had just happened. Why was my back hurting so bad? Finally, one of the guys I was working out with was like, ‘Dude, are you okay? Do you need a hand up?' Then it dawned on me that I'd been laying on the floor for a little bit. I finally got myself up and drove home.
Initially, I didn't think I'd be out. I figured with a day or two of rest, I'd be good. This happens in training camp. You tweak stuff all the time. You take a day or two off, ride the couch, and then you get back on the horse.
The problem is, that just wasn't happening. It was getting worse. I went to two different chiropractors with no relief. At this point, I figured it was time to suck it up and go to the doctor. When he came in and broke the news that I had a ruptured disc, all I could think was, ‘Holy shit, I'm only 28. How do I have a ruptured disc?'
It's just so tough to face that reality. When I go through a training camp, I get to a point where I feel bulletproof. I'm in shape, my weight is good and I'm burning through my workouts like they're nothing. I feel like nothing can stop me, like I can blow a hole through this f*cking guy. This is gonna be easy money. I'm not saying Tony was going to be easy, I'm just saying that you get to a point where you feel invincible against the world. Then it all fell apart. Gutted."
The Maverick plans to take eight weeks off for rest & rehab and then have his physician re-evaluate the situation after to see if surgery will be required. He does plan to be proactive with his recovery, though.
"I'm pulling out all the stops to make sure I have a successful recovery. I'll be going back for assessments every two weeks with my doctor. I'm doing 2-3 days/week of physical therapy and rehab, and resting properly. I also work with Daniel Leith from FitnessVT and Lockhart & Leith, and I've talked to him about helping me diet-wise and supplement-wise to increase my healing potential. I'm trying to approach this as intelligently as I can, from as many angles as I can. I don't intend to take this injury for granted, by any means."
As for a future fight with Ferguson, Mike feels that their course has destiny written all over it.
"Tony and I are destined to fight. I'm more gutted about losing the main event than I am about losing out on the chance to fight Tony, because I know this fight will happen no matter what. We almost fought at UFC 173, and we would have fought on July 13th. I have no doubt our paths will cross again for a fight.
I'm just doing the best I can to stay positive for my family and friends, and to get back to fight shape as soon as possible. I keep telling myself that everything happens for a reason and I'll come back stronger. Any time I go through some sort of hardship, I come back better for it. I have to not hope for the best, I have to make the best happen."