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Coming back from injury, Drakkar Klose is the fighter to watch at UFC Vegas 51

UFC Vegas 51 could determine the future of Drakkar Klose

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The last time we saw Drakkar Klose near a UFC event was during the fighter staredowns for UFC Vegas 24 fight card. Klose made weight for that lightweight fight, which was scheduled as the evening’s co-main event, but he did not make it to fight night because his planned opponent, Jeremy Stephens, injured Klose during their face off. Klose makes his return to the octagon on Saturday. Klose’s appearance at UFC Vegas 51 comes a year to the day that Stephens inexcusably put his hands on Klose prior to their bout.

Klose has not had an easy road back to the octagon. A few days after Stephens’ stupidity, Klose and his team shared the results of his trip to the ER — a “brain concussion” and a “sprain of cervical neck.”

Klose wrote at the time:

After I was pushed by Jeremy at UFC faceoffs, I immediately felt my hand go numb and neck tighten up. Sean Shelby and the UFC officials sent me to the PI to get worked on by the UFC PT staff for 2 hours.

I spent the night eating, rehydrating, stretching, and even saw the PT staff later that night. I woke up early this morning with a migraine/headache, nausea and the only thing that made me feel better was laying in the dark.

UFC got me medicine and I rested for a couple of hours before getting up and vomiting. It was at that point we called the UFC doctor and he made the decision to send me to the hospital.

I’m sorry to everyone who was excited for this fight. I tried to do everything I could to stay in this fight, but these issues are out of my control.

Ahead of his 155-pound matchup on Saturday against Brandon Jenkins, Klose filled in more details about the injury, which UFC president Dana White responded to at the time by calling Stephens a “savage” and blaming UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby for Stephens’ actions.

“I mean, the damage was done, I’m still not 100 percent from that. It’s something I will probably need surgery on eventually,” Klose told Just Scrap Radio. “I told myself if I have to get surgery, I’m just going to call it quits. Just trying to manage it and do the therapy and all that…

“I did think that was going to be the end of me. I was having really bad headaches, dealing with my neck issue, it is something serious. When I saw my doctor he talked about fusing my neck and I didn’t want to hear that.”

The incident also let know Klose where he stood with the UFC.

“They ended up giving me my show money but they never said anything to me,” said Klose. “To me, it’s kind of ridiculous, he really f–ked me up. I remember driving home from that fight and I was crying,

“I don’t know why I was crying but my head was so messed up. It’s a business for them, they don’t care, it’s all numbers for them, when I’m gone someone else will be in my spot.”

Klose has not fought since March 2020 when Beneil Dariush knocked him out in the second round of their UFC 248 pay-per-view bout. Heading into that battle, Klose was on a three-fight winning streak and had an 11-1-1 record.

UFC Vegas 51 is a huge event for Klose. Klose is, as of this writing, the biggest favorite on the card, but with the baggage he is carrying into the event — physically, mentally and emotionally — it’s hard to estimate how he will perform. It’s not an understatement to say that UFC Vegas 51 could determine the future of Drakkar Klose as an MMA competitor.

UFC Vegas 51 takes place at UFC Apex in Las Vegas. ESPN/ESPN+ carry the main card following prelims on ESPN+.