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Tatiana Suarez won’t rush return from neck injury: ‘I just don’t want to re-aggravate it’

The strawweight top contender’s charge up the 115 lb division may be on hold, but her long-term health is more important.

UFC 238: Suarez v Ansaroff Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

In 2018 Tatiana Suarez seemed unstoppable. The 5’ 5” strawweight fighting out of Rancho Cucamonga had blitzed her competition on the Ultimate Fighter Season 23, and was quickly racking up wins inside the Octagon. After running over Alexa Grasso, she swamped Carla Esparza—TKO-ing the former champion late in the third round. When she faced off against Nina Ansaroff in June of 2019, it seemed certain that a win would have her challenging for the title.

Six months later, Suarez is still undefeated, but a shot at the belt doesn’t appear to be anywhere on the immediate horizon. In part, that’s due to the lackluster performance she logged against Ansaroff. Even in victory, many fans felt that – had their bout gone 5 rounds – Ansaroff would have won it. What started as Suarez outlanding her opponent at a 5-to-1 clip, ended with both women trading blows equally—and Suarez appearing to get all the worst of it.

More important than an unimpressive win, however, Suarez went into the bout with an untreated neck injury. And it’s that injury that’s put her on the sidelines for the foreseeable future, as the rest of the division pushes forward without her.

In Suarez’s place, unheralded Weili Zhang got the title shot against Jessica Andrade at UFC Shenzhen—blasting the champion in just 42 seconds, to take the belt for herself. Now it appears former champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk is lined up for her own opportunity to reclaim the title sometime early next year. As for Tatiana, she’s just focused on making sure she heals up properly before she thinks about fighting again.

“Of course I want to get in there and fight,” Suarez said in a recent interview with The Score (transcript via MMA Junkie). “I just think it’s not very wise to jump in. With this type of injury, if I hurt it again?

“I just don’t want to re-aggravate it and start the healing process all over again. I think a lot of times people do that. They want to jump in there, and then they re-injure themselves. Then, instead of being out nine months or something, they’re out two years.”

Suarez says, to date, she’s had a cortisone shot and a stem cell injection—to repair nerve damage to her C4-C7 & T1 vertebrae. And Junkie reports that she’s hoping that an MRI shows the injury is healing on schedule, or she may have to consider surgery. But, even if everything goes perfectly to plan, Suarez says she’s not planning on diving back into the title picture right away.

“I did believe if I was healthy after my last fight, I could have potentially got the title shot. Because I wasn’t, that obviously passed. But the division is moving, so I’m not sitting here saying that I’m going to jump the line ahead of other people that I believe deserve to be fighting for the title. I know there’s a lot of girls gunning for the title. So whoever I need to beat, that’s fine. I’ll fight them. Then, onto the next one after that.”