Looking back at my fight with Saketdao I have mixed feelings. Of course I’m upset about losing, especially since I know that I can beat him, but I am also extremely happy and grateful. I mean almost 9 years ago I was nothing but a drunk, wasting my life everyday, going nowhere and now here I am, fighting the best in the world and helping pave the way for Thai boxing in America. How could I be upset? It still blows my mind when I think about it, it probably always will.
I definitely had some negative things that affected me in that fight, both mentally and physically. Those things will always happen for everyone, it’s just easier to look back and pin point them after losing. In the end it all really just boils down to a loss of focus. When I fought Saenchai, Malaipet, Coke, I was dialed in, not sure why I wasn’t this time, I was missing something. No matter what, it’s all a learning experience, just need to make sure that I fix it. The hardest part is having to wait and not know when I will be fighting again. I’ll probably just end up going back to Thailand unless something comes up here. I should probably just let my body rest but I’m already dying to get back in there. I’d fight today if I could.
I’m still waiting to see what’s happening with the fight situation. It's been a combination of waiting for that giant cut Saketdao gave me to heal and then just not being able to get anything lined up. Been in talks with Justin Blair at Friday Night Fights in New York about him bringing me out there for their January card. It’s terrible money and I know I’ll have to fight someone from out there, which I’d rather not do, but I need a fight now! My friend's, Brett Whitton in Australia, coach is also trying to get me something set up over there. I’ve just been hitting up every single person I know to try and find me a fight, I’m desperate. It’s been two months since my last fight and I’m going crazy.
I gave Justin till last week to confirm with me, which he didn’t, but he said that he has something in the works so we’ll see. I told him that was fine but let him know that I had other people trying to find me fights as well and I will take whichever one comes first. The day he finally gets back to me is the same day Tim,from Sitsonpeenong, hits me up telling me about a huge show they have planned for Songchai’s anniversary that they want me on. It always happens this way. You can’t find a fight to save your life and then all of a sudden you get all these offers that are right around the same time. I told Justin that I had to take it of course. It was for a lot more money, it was a huge opportunity and they were going to fly both Mark and I out, how could I pass it up. Not to mention it would be against a high level opponent, which is the most important part to me. Needless to say Justin was not happy. He gave me till this Saturday to give him a final answer, as the fight in Thailand was not 100% yet. I told Tim I needed to know by the weekend but come Sunday he still had not gotten back to me. Finally I had to let Tim know that I was going to take the fight in New York. Of course I would rather fight in Thailand but any fight is better than no fight. I let Justin know and he said, “OK but this time I don’t care if Dana White calls, you’re still on this card” hahaha. He still didn’t have an opponent for me but was sure he would be able to get someone lined up. I’m going to head back out to CSA to train for a bit. I just need to get out of Vegas and spend New Years out there. Need to make some changes and do things right.
Well we are in a brand new year, feels great. Last year was really rough for me, all around. The losses, the injuries, everything. I’m looking forward to making 2012 a great year.
Got the contract to fight Omar (Ahmed) in New York on the 20th. He’s one of the last people I would ever want to fight but it's still better than not fighting and I sure as hell ain’t waiting any longer. I’m hoping that Christine and Scott will let me fight on the Lion Fight card in Vegas but either way I know Stand Up (promotions) is putting me on their March card, hopefully against Yamato. I just want to start the new year off right
Just got back from being up at CSA for a week, spent New Years with them, it was really fun. I have been kicking around the idea of leaving Vegas lately. I've actually always wanted to leave here but there was really nowhere else for me to go, as far as training goes. It would be really hard for me to leave my sister and all of my friends but I gotta do what’s best for me.
Spent new years at Kirian's with his family, as well as Caitlin and Gaston. We just hung out playing Dance Central and some other XBOX games. It’s so nice to just hang out with good friends and not drink for once, we had a lot of fun. So I have 3 more weeks until the fight. I was killing it in Dublin so all’s I gotta do is keep that up here for the next two and a half weeks and smash this fool out. I’m really going to do my best to make the changes in my life that I need to, do things right and make 2012 the best year ever.
Finally managed to get a fight lined up in April. Thakoon is putting on a huge show at one of the stadiums and asked me to come out and fight. It's against a real solid Thai. Another southpaw...
I’m on my way back up to Dublin once again. I’m going for ten days this time and I will hopefully figure out if this is where I’m going to move. I'm going to live there, teach and train and try and get a good idea of what it would really be like if I actually moved there. Chaz is coming out as well but not until Sunday. I guess Joe Schilling, Chaz, Mark Beecher, Jason Andrada, Jose Palacios, Michael Manaquil, Ky Hollenbeck and a few others are all coming up so we can all train together. Should be a good time.
Mark and I did a seminar in New York last weekend. Omar had pulled out of the fight at the last minute, no surprise there. We actually already had the seminars set up so we went out anyway. We went to the show that our fight was supposed to be on. Omar showed up and had a million excuses, all of which boiled down to one thing, he didn’t want to fight me. You can make up as many excuses as you need to but everyone knows what’s up. Did a pizza eating contest afterward, because Scott Hirano had challenged me hahaha. We went to this bomb ass spot, had these enormous pizza’s. A bunch of other people jumped in on the challenge but they didn’t make it very far. At the end it was just Scott and I. The whole time I kept talking to him telling him I was hurting and starting to get really full. I kept making belly ache noises like this was all really difficult for me. I say to him, “Man do you wana just call it a draw or something? I mean I can keep going but what do you think?” I could see he was hurting bad. He says, “Yea man, I’m dying over here.” I jump up, “Hahaha, yea right fool, I can do this all day”, immediately scarfing down the pizza in my hand. This just broke him and he gives up. Yes I was hurting but I could have gone a lot longer, good times.
Saturday Mark and I did a seminar at New York Sanda. We had a really good turn out, it was a lot of fun. That night we went to a smoker in the Bronx, it was really cool. I hadn’t been to a smoker in forever, it brought me back. The USMTA gave me an appreciation award, which was really an unexpected thing. I really felt like I’d made an impact on some people. On Sunday we did another seminar but this one was in Jersey, we had another great turn out. We had dinner with everyone afterward, pizza again hahaha, and then flew home that night.
I still didn’t have a fight set, it was driving me crazy. I had a few in the works. One in San Diego and there is also a big TV fight in Thailand in March. If that one goes through I will just stay afterward and train as I have a fight in China in April, hopefully. Chaz will be going out in April as well, think he’s going to be on the Thai Fight card. It would be really great if all three of those fights happen. But usually what happens is I get a ton of fights lined up and every single one falls through. Either that or I have to pick one because the dates are too close together and then the one I pick gets canceled and it’s too late for me to get on a different one. Good times! I’m just looking forward to being out of Vegas for a while, I think big things are coming!
Well the weekend started out amazing. Everyone was in town and we were going to hit two training sessions on Friday, then one on Saturday and another on Sunday. This was something that everyone had been looking forward to and you could just feel the energy in the air. We all started off with a run Friday morning. Felt just like Thailand, all of us running together, wish we had this every day, it was great. We get back and stretch out, shadow box and start moving around a bit. We kept the morning session pretty light so that everyone could just get used to each other and then we were going to hit it hard on the night session. We all did some partner drills, bag work and stuff like that. When everyone was finished Chaz and I got in the ring to clinch as everyone else was just relaxing and stretching out. Jose and Rudi came up there as well to work with each other. Kirian made it a point to tell the group how we were always doing more than everyone else, even after the workouts were finished. We were going good for about 15 minutes and then right before we were about finished Chaz picks me up to dump me. He had a real good body lock on me and just picked me up off of the ground. Now he didn’t really slam me but he definitely wasn’t trying to set me down easily. Basically just dropped me but I was pretty high off the ground, seeing as how he’s 6 foot 1. He had me completely sideways so as I was falling I stuck my leg out to try and catch myself. Well the combination of the angle I was at and the fact that the ring was slippery ultimately led me to coming down with all of my weight going into my knee. I immediately felt, and heard, a loud, painful pop, and hit the ground hard. Everyone that was there could hear the sound too, it echoed throughout the gym. I immediately grabbed my knee, closed my eyes and rocked back and forth in agony. I knew something was wrong but I just rolled out of the ring and told them to keep going. I thought to myself ‘shit’, I knew it was bad, just didn’t know how much. Kirian came over and took a look at it. It had already started to swell pretty badly and I was in a great deal of pain. He sent someone off to go and get me some ice and asked me what exactly had happened. How I had come down on it, what it had felt like, etc. With any knee injury your first thought is “Did I tear my ACL?”, which is the worst one to damage. It still felt stable, I could still walk on it, sort of, even though it was extremely painful. He told me just to keep ice on it and then we would see how it felt after a bit and go from there. I did my best to stay positive but I also knew how bad it could be. I couldn’t believe this happened especially it being at the very beginning of this weekend. It is what it is. Rudi told me that they had a physical therapist at their gym and he would get me in to see him as soon as possible. I went back to my hotel room and just kept icing it as it had swollen up about ten times worse. Now I’ve been injured plenty of times and know that being upset about it will do nothing good and only make it that much worse but it’s hard not to get pissed off. It looked as if I had a basketball inside my knee . It was killing me! I was so frustrated. For so long I had been trying to get a fight lined up. First I had to heal from the Saketdao fight, which that cut took about 3 months till I could even start getting hit again. Then dealing with the bullshit with Omar and once I was back from that my frustration level had reached an all-time high. Here I was around the peak of my career, having worked so hard to get into the position that I’m in and I can’t get a fight to save my life. What made it even worse was the fact I was coming off two losses, regardless of them being against two of the best fighters in the world, I wanted to get back in the winner’s circle. Finally getting this fight in Thailand set up made me so happy and I was scheduled to fight Matt Embree in March, things were looking up. But now this. Who knows now.
Rudi was able to get me in to see their gym doctor that afternoon before our second session. Gaston drove me out to their gym, which was about 25 minutes from Dublin. He took a look at it, put me through some range of motion tests, and asked me what happened. He said from the looks of it he didn’t think that it was my ACL, if anything it appeared as if I might have a partial tear in my meniscus, which isn’t too big of a deal, still not great though. I asked him if I could keep training. He said as long as it feels stable and doesn’t cause me too much pain then it should be fine. Well at least I could still do something. Sure it was killing me, still swollen badly, but I could push through the pain.
We went back to the gym that evening, no way I was going to miss out on any more than I had to. I knew I couldn’t kick but I could still box, better than nothing. It was pretty tough watching everyone else train though.
All in all, other than the injury, it was a really great weekend. Not only did we all have such a good time training and hanging out with one another but I finally made up my mind to make the move out to Dublin and make CSA my new home. I told Kirian, who was more than happy to hear this, that I would plan on coming out as soon as I got back from Thailand that way I could get ready for the March fight with Embree with a full camp out there. He thought it sounded like a great idea and told me to take care of my knee.
Well I continued my training back in Vegas getting ready for my fight in Thailand. Chaz would be going out there with me to train and fight as well. My knee started feeling better once the swelling went away, to a point. I was able to run, hit pads, spar, everything. I was constantly in pain but it wasn't the first time that I’ve had to work through injuries. Once in a while, when I would pivot on it really hard, I would get a shooting pain but other than that I never had any stability issues or anything. I also had my doctor in Vegas take a look at it and he came to the same conclusion as the one at Rudi’s had. This made me feel a lot better even though it was still not back to 100%. Well the time was closing in to when Chaz and I would be leaving for Thailand. I had been waiting on my insurance to tell me when I could go and get an MRI as the last thing I wanted to do was be in Thailand and find out I was actually really injured needing surgery. Finally I realized that I was cutting it too close and had to hit up a doctor friend of mine from the gym who let me just pay him cash and come get my MRI done at his office. I went and got that done but I wouldn’t get the results until 2 days before we were set to leave the country. I still had to pack and plan everything all in hopes that the results would come back positive. Finally the day arrived and what I had feared most came to pass. A completely torn ACL. I knew something was wrong with it I just didn’t figure it was that serious, especially after having 2 different doctors look at it and come to the same conclusion I even had to bring the results into my rehab guy because he couldn’t believe it.
My doctor told me yes I could still go train and fight if I wanted to but I risked damaging my knee further and could end up tearing other ligaments as well. As badly as I wanted to fight I wasn’t going to risk making it worse. I had to tell Chaz to go without me, which he was bummed and I felt terrible about. I contacted my insurance company in hopes of getting the surgery done as soon as possible. Well as anything that has to do with insurance, it was going to take forever, almost two months. I called the surgery center up, explained to them that this was my career and I couldn’t work until this was fixed. I told them that if anything came up, no matter how short of notice, I would drop what I was doing and be there, basically begging them to have mercy on me. All I could do was wait and pray that something opened up. Well thankfully my prayers were answered and they told me that there was a cancellation and they could get me in April 19th, which was still about a month away from when I got the MRI done.
I nearly lost my mind waiting to get the surgery done. I decided to just move all of my stuff out to California and then fly back for the surgery. I didn’t want to wait any longer. I also knew that I would heal ten times faster out there as it was a much more positive environment for me. Many people tried to talk me out of it, as I had to drive 9 hours in a U-Haul with a torn ACL. ‘What’s your rush’ they would ask. I had already made up my mind to leave, so every second I wasted in Vegas was just that much longer away from starting my new life. My leg hurt so bad on the drive out. I basically had to keep it floored to even keep the truck at 75 and there was no cruise control. I somehow managed to make it. Felt so good to be out there even though I had to leave soon after to get the surgery done. It felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I made the flight back to Vegas and got ready to have surgery. This would be my first. I wasn’t too nervous but then again I had never had one before, never been put out before, hell I’d never even lost consciousness before. My mom flew out from Florida to help take care of me, which was so nice of her, even though I had plenty of friends as well as my sister who were all happy to help me out.
Finally surgery day came, I couldn’t wait to get it over with and back on the long road to recovery, this was just the first step. I brought my camera so my mom could film me waking up afterward Figured I could get some funny footage of me being all doped up. As they were wheeling me into the operating room I said bye to my mother, was thinking to myself how scary this would be if I was actually getting something serious done, like a brain or heart surgery. I mean in any surgery there are no guarantees that nothing will go wrong. They had already drugged me up some, which I didn’t feel much of. It worried a bit seeing as how I’m often immune to drugs and it usually takes a ton for them to be effective, I have a crazy high tolerance. Finally they gave me more on the table and I was out. Next thing I knew I was waking up in the recovery room. My mom was there with the camera but unfortunately I didn’t feel anything. I mean I could tell they doped me up but I wasn’t all cracked out or anything like you normally see people being, bummer. I was actually in a lot of pain still. I told the doctor, who gave me another dose of morphine. I had the worst cotton mouth, felt as if I had tried eating a bag of sand. They gave me some crackers, which made it worse, and a soda. I just wanted to go home and rest. Told the doctor that I was still in pain, once again he gives me another shot of morphine. Wait another ten minutes, still don’t feel anything. I was actually starting to wonder if they were just messing with me and not really giving me anything. He tells me I can’t leave until 30 minutes after my last shot just in case I have a reaction. I was still in a lot of pain so I have them give me one more. Finally I tell them it worked just so that I could leave but I didn’t feel any better than I had before the 1st one. Pretty crazy, 3 shots of morphine with no effect.
Becca, Chaz’s girlfriend, ended up picking me up along with my mother and driving me back to my sisters. I was in a agony and it seemed to take forever but finally made it. It took some doing getting to get me in her house and into the back room where I could lay down. My mom brought me a bag of ice and I thanked Becca for the ride. They had picked up my pain killers so I started in on them, even though I knew they wouldn’t do much. I told my mom I just wanted to rest and be left alone so she told me to try and get some sleep and call if I needed anything. I did my best to keep my leg elevated, even though it was in this enormous, heavy brace which weighed down all of the pillows I had tried to prop it up on. Dawn hit me up to see how I was doing, I told her to stop by and say hi as I was only going to be in town for a few days. My doctor had told me after a week it would be safe for me to fly home. She finally shows up, it was so good to see her, she always makes me smile. I felt bad though cause I know how hard it is for her to see me all messed up. She hung out for a bit but eventually had to leave. The pain killers weren’t really doing anything but at least they were making it manageable, barely. Only thing that really seemed to help was the ice. My mom was coming in every hour to make sure I took my pain meds and iced my leg again. I know she was just worried about me but it seemed like every other minute she was in there making sure I was ok. I knew that I would never be able to relax there. On top of the fact that my sister, nephew and her boyfriend were all there too. I had to get out of there. Kim, Joe and Mike had offered me to come stay in their guest room, which they actually lived right down the street. I hit them up and told them the situation. Kim came and picked me up. As much as I love my family it was so nice to just be able to relax. Made it up to the guest room, which was upstairs and took some work. Kim got me some ice and told me to let her know if I needed anything. I was able to finally pass out for a few hours. Woke up in so much pain. Joe and Mike eventually came home ,was good to see them. Just like Kim they told me to call if I needed anything. I did my best to not make them worry and keep a calm face but on the inside I was screaming in agony. It was getting really bad. I started doubling up on the pain killers but it wasn’t doing much. Finally was able to pass out but I woke up around 1am and my body was screaming at me. I couldn’t even bare it, I was just rolling around in pain just holding a pillow over my face to keep me from yelling out. The pain killers weren’t helping and neither was the ice. I made a decision, even though I didn’t want to, that the only thing that might help boost these pain killers would be alcohol. It had been quite a while since I have had a drink and I didn’t want to fall off the wagon but this was an emergency. I sent Joe a text hoping that he would still be awake. Luckily he was and luckily he had a few beers left in the fridge, even though I could have used some whiskey. He brought me up 4, just in case and I sucked them down as fast as I could. They barely even made a dent but just enough to where I wasn’t screaming anymore. Finally I passed out.
Those first and second nights were the worst. I don’t know what it was but the pain would hit me so hard in the middle of the night. Maybe because I would be asleep and not taking my meds. Finally made it over the hard part. I was still in incredible pain. My leg just throbbed constantly. I had a huge brace on it and had to use crutches, which I hate, to get around, not that I had anywhere to go, I didn’t even want to move. I had a steady stream of my amazing friends and family constantly coming by. It definitely helped pass the time but it was still hard not feeling depressed about the whole situation.
Trying to sleep was almost impossible. The brace was really uncomfortable and heavy so I always had to lie on my back. I would also have like mini claustrophobic freak outs in my head. I would be thinking that I was just going to wake up and kick my leg out. Kept thinking that I was going to do that in my sleep and wake up screaming in pain. I would just lay there in bed wondering if I would ever be able to make it back to where I had been in my career or even back to fighting at all. I wondered if I’d ever be able to do anything physical again period. There were some dark days when I just would look at how much it would take to get back and I would think, “There’s just no way, I can’t do this”. I started getting really depressed. I was in so much pain and just couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe I was done. Even though I was extremely grateful for all I had accomplished in the sport up to that point I knew that there was still so much more that I could do and it made me sad thinking that was all cut short. Finally I had enough of feeling sorry for myself. I know that God put me on this earth to be a fighter and that’s exactly what I was going to do. Even if I never made it back to where I was, even if I never made it back in the ring again, I was still going to give it my all and do everything that I could to get there, let the chips fall where they may.
I had to stay in Vegas for a week until it was ok for me to fly home. Flying can be dangerous after a surgery because of the risk of blood clots but my doc tor told me that after a week I should be fine. Finally a week had passed and I was cleared to fly home. Mike drove me down to the airport. Now I’m someone who hates to be needy, I don’t want anyone helping me and definitely hate asking. Mike parked the car and carried my bags as I was on crutches. He asked if I wanted to get a wheelchair. I said “Hell no, I got this.” By the time we got to the check in my arms were shot, as we had to park pretty far away. He asked one of the people that worked there to get me a wheelchair and they brought one over. They also let me skip the line and check in right away. Well even though I hate being needy it was still nice getting wheeled around and skipping all the lines hahaha. We got to the security line and got to skip that one as well. I could get used to this! So Mike is pushing me through the airport and somehow we get lost. You would think after the millions of times I’ve flown I would know my way around the airport, I guess I was a bit out of it. Finally we make it to my gate. Mike drops me off at the check in table where they gave me a pass to board first. Said our goodbyes and I waited for the flight to board. I don’t know what it was, maybe I was distracted, but as soon as he left my leg started killing me, I could barely stand it. I popped a bunch of anti inflammatory's and pain killers in hopes that it would ease the pain. I knew that my leg was going to swell up badly on the plane, I was just imagining how much more it was going to hurt seeing how I was already in so much pain. Finally we board, the flight attendant asks if I need a drink or anything to take any of my meds. I declined as I had already taken them, I just wanted to get this over with. Luckily there was enough room for me to prop my leg up on the seat next to me. The flight was pretty empty as it was the last of the day. As soon as we took of my leg started getting worse and the higher we got the more painful it was. I had to pick my leg up as high as I could in hopes of alleviating some of the pressure but it was killing me. After what seemed like forever we finally land in Oakland. I was so happy to finally be there. I had to wait on the plane for someone to come and get me with a wheelchair. Finally got off and went and got my bags where Gaston was waiting to pick me up.
I had ended up getting a cadaver ACL. They have two options when doing the surgery, either they can take from your other ligaments and basically make you a new one or you can go the cadaver route. Now Miriam, as well as some of my other fighter friends who had gone through the same thing, had all gotten cadavers. Both options had their negatives and positives but after doing some research and asking around it just seemed like the cadaver was the better option for me, especially seeing as how I was going to continue fighting. This did sort of freak me out a bit. The idea of having someone else’s, especially someone who has passed away, body part in you. I had mixed feelings about this. I mean when I pass on I would be more than happy to have someone else in need benefit from the pieces I am no longer using. It was still a freaky thing to think about. I wasn’t sure how this would affect me once it was done. After the surgery I didn’t think about it all that much. I mean if it had been a major organ like a heart or lung I think it would have hit me a lot harder. That’s not to say I didn’t think about it. I knew the person who had passed had a family and friends who were devastated by their death. It made me appreciate my new leg all that much more and I vowed to make the most of the gift I had been given. All the times I wanted to quit and give up I reminded myself that I wasn’t just doing this for me. I needed to do this for the both of us so their body could live on, take advantage of the gift that I had been given. They give you a form with a code on it that has the cadaver number so that you can send a thank you letter to the family if you want. You have to go through the donor company so you have no way of knowing whether or not they actually received it. I started writing my letter but then would think, “How can you even thank someone for this, what do you even say?” I told a few people about my concerns and they all gave me the same advice, “Just speak from the heart, they will get the message.” I just started writing and it all poured out. I told them how sorry I was for their loss but how grateful I was for this gift. I told them how devastated this injury was to me and my career. I told them how Muay Thai had saved my life and how many other countless people’s lives I had been able to affect through it and how many more I hoped to in the future. I told them how not only every fight but every day of my life would now be lived for two and I would do everything I could to live my life in a way that said thank you. I put my name and ways to contact me at the end of the letter having no clue whether they would get it or if they would even want to contact me. I hoped that they would because I would love to put a face to this and truly thank them. I sent the letter off and just prayed they would receive it.
The next few weeks were some of the hardest I have ever been through in my entire life. Kirian got me set up with the same rehab guy that had worked with Miriam, who had the exact same injury and surgery about a year prior and was having her return fight the following weekend. I knew that if she made it back in a year I could do it in at least that amount of time, if not less.
My rehab guy was great, Jacon Chun at Elite Sports Physical Therapy in Fremont. Only problem was that his office was about 30 minutes from my house and I had to find a ride every time. Luckily there are so many amazing people at my gym who were extremely helpful, even though I felt like I was 14 years old again begging people for rides. The actual rehab, the working out therapy stuff, wasn’t all that bad. It was the fact that I had all this scar tissue in my knee that they had to break up which was awful. He told me we really couldn’t even start on the good rehabilitation until I got my full range of motion back, I was nowhere near close. So every time I went in there, for about the first 15-20 minutes, he would have to break up the scar tissue and then try and force my leg backwards. Now I don’t think I’ll even begin to be able to describe how much this hurt but I’ll do my best. It was probably the worst pain I have ever been in. I had to lie on my stomach and basically allow him to torture me. I mean I could fight it if I wanted to but how would that help. Everything in my body was yelling at me not to let him do this but I had to fight my instincts. I was screaming on the inside but doing my best to keep it contained, but there was only so much I could take. Everyone in the office would just stare at me as I would be screaming. I wanted to kill him. He asked if I wanted a pillow to hit. “No, I want to hit you”, I would say. “The pillows not hurting me, you are!” It’s like being held under water and having to allow someone to drown you, accept instead of drowning this is the most excruciating pain ever. Thankfully I made it through the hardest parts and things got better and better every week. I started wondering about the thank you letter I had sent, as I hadn’t heard anything. I mean I really had no idea if they would even want to contact me but I did want to know if they had at least received it. I contacted the company and told them about my curiosity. They told me that my letter had never arrived and to try and send again. Luckily I had saved it on my computer. So once again I sent the letter off in hopes of them receiving it and with the knowledge that I would have no way of knowing if they would or not.
I flew back to Vegas for the Lion Fight 4 card May 12th, which I was originally supposed to be on. Joe was re-matching Simon Marcus. Romie, Artem and a few of my other friends were on there as well and I didn’t want to miss it. I also had to go in for a checkup with my doctor as well as pick up my car, which I had left. The flight back was definitely easier than the one after surgery. My leg still cramped up but nowhere near as badly. I declined on the wheelchair this time, even though I regretted it. I forgot how big the Vegas airport is, especially when you are on crutches and you land on the furthest terminal. By the time I got my bag and to the car my arms were raw and dead.
Everything went good with the doctor. He was very happy with my progress and told me that I was healing very quickly. He scheduled another checkup a month later. He also told me that I was fine to go without crutches, which I pretty much had been doing anyway but now would be able to put more weight on my leg with confidence. The fights were great even though it sucked being their crippled, especially when I should have been on the card. It did however motivate me that much more to get back to doing what I love. Joe had bought me this sweet pink cane to rock at the fights (which I ended up writing the ‘Man in the arena’ speech on with a sharpie and we did this contest giveaway for). Gaston flew out the next day to drive me back, as I still couldn’t drive and definitely didn’t want to. Now in my head this didn’t seem like that big of a deal. I mean all I was doing was sitting in the passenger seat as he drove, how bad could it be. Well I didn’t think about how badly my leg would hurt. Even though I had it mostly extended it still felt cramped up and was swelling up badly. I did my best to ice it the whole time but the ice kept melting. It was so uncomfortable but after about 7 hours we finally got back into town. I was so happy to be back. I finally had my car as well as all of my stuff there, this was my new home.
Picked back up with the rehab, every week it got better and better, closer and closer to full motion, but it was still just as painful once he got to that point where my leg didn’t want to bend anymore. Finally he cleared me to drive and I got to get rid of the brace. This did freak me out a bit, I just pictured having to slam on my brakes suddenly and my leg just snapping in half. It was nice not having to bum rides anymore but in some ways it was worse. I had to be motivated to go to this place where I knew I was going to be tortured. There were days when I just wanted to say no, no more, I don’t want to deal with pain today. I would just be driving and pissed off, every second I got closer and more annoyed. It was so hard to just not turn around but I knew it was a necessary means to an end, no matter how badly it hurt. He almost had me crying one time, I was close. I would just get so depressed and unmotivated. Sure I was making progress, and even though he told me it was the fastest he had ever seen someone heal, I was still in constant pain, still couldn’t do anything and still had to deal with him torturing me. There were some dark days in there where I just thought I wouldn’t make it. Especially once I got to the point where I could walk fine and function. I figured, “Hey you made it far enough, you can make it around ok, this is good enough, no more.” I could now see why it takes most people, especially ones who are just trying to get back to everyday life, so long to come back from this surgery. Mentally it can just break you, and once you lose your motivation you are done.
One reason I think that I was able to heal so quickly is the fact that as soon as we were back in California, the week after surgery, I was in the gym. Obviously I couldn’t use my leg but I did anything and everything else that I could to stay in shape, on top of the fact I went into surgery in great shape.
After 9 weeks Jacon finally gave me the ok to hit pads, just boxing. I was ecstatic driving home from his office. I had hit the bag a few times but had to do it standing on one leg as I didn’t want to risk injuring myself. I called Kirian up and let him know, I couldn’t wait. We started nice and light and I was actually surprised that I still felt relatively sharp considering how long it had been. It felt so good to be hitting things again, however minimal. Another step in the right direction.
Over the next few months I continued to progress rapidly. For the most part, every time I went into rehab, I was a step up from the time before. After a few months though I started to plateau and this frustrated me. In the beginning it seemed as if I was going to get back super quick but once I started to slow down the doubts crept back in. Kirian would remind me that I was still making a faster recovery than anyone and I just needed to stay positive and not lose my motivation. I put things in perspective and just kept on the grind.
At the 6 month mark I was cleared to start kicking, which freaked me out. I was like, “Are you sure?”. I mean the doctor can tell you that it’s fine but neither he or you really know for sure that your leg is healed. I would always think in my head how I had functioned on a torn ACL for a few months, who’s to say it’s not still injured, or re injured. Every time I would tweak it out, or have pain, these fears would run through my mind. I think one of the hardest parts about coming back from a serious injury is letting go of that fear and doubt and just allowing yourself to know that you are healed.
My left kicks were feeling really strong even though you would think the pivot on my right leg is what would bother it. I was still extremely hesitant to kick fully with my right, this was going to take some time. I was really hoping to have a fight back within a year, I mean I couldn’t let Miriam beat me hahaha, but I also didn’t want to rush it.
Around the 7th, 8th month I got the ok from my doctor to fight, I couldn’t believe it. I had my doubts but if my doctor told me it was ok, and normally they have to err on the side of caution if anything, then I needed to believe him. I had already signed with Lion Fight, as well as Glory, on multi fight deals. Lion Fight had a card January 25th and they put me on it. This was only 9 months and one week after my surgery. As much as I didn’t want to take a ‘tune up’, I knew it was the best and smartest thing to do. We threw a few names around, especially guys that had been running their mouths over the years but that I had never wanted to fight because I only wanted the best in the world. You would think that now would be the time that they would be jumping at a chance to take me out. Well you’d be wrong. We had almost 5 different people accept the fight and then later back out. Needless to say this frustrated me. I was so happy at the idea of coming back so soon and now it looked as if it wouldn’t happen because all these 'hard asses' were scared. Finally a guy from the East Coast, Chris Kwiatkowski, who had just recently lost a decision to Jose Palacious, agreed to take the fight. Thank goodness!
I was so excited to be getting back in the ring again but I also had my hesitations. Not only was I coming off two losses but coming back from surgery. Could I really do this again, could I get back to where I was, would I hesitate in there, would my leg hold up? All these doubts ran through my mind. As always I knew that God had brought me here and there was nothing to fear. Training for the fight went really well. My leg was feeling extremely strong, even better than before thanks to my new strength and conditioning coach at CSA, Jesse Burdick. He is great, reminds me a lot of Norm (my conditioning coach in Vegas), both are huge guys.
My boxing had reached a new level as this was the main thing I had to focus on those first few months. Even my timing and movement had improved. I didn’t notice it all that much but everyone I sparred with mentioned to me how much better I had gotten. I just hoped that it would all come together on fight night.
A week before my fight the family of the man whose ACL I have contacted me on Facebook. His name was Mathew Whitaker. First his son contacted me telling me how much they appreciated the letter, how they were affected by the loss but how happy they were to know he was living on through me. I thanked him so much and let him know I’d be fighting that weekend and hoped they would watch. The next day Mathew’s wife, Mary, contacted me. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I had told them how I had originally sent the letter right after surgery but it was lost. She said if she had received it that soon she wouldn’t have been able to deal with it as he had just passed away, suddenly, in January. I guess God always has His timing and things work out the way that they were supposed to. She told me how happy she was that I was going to be able to get back in the ring and that they would all be cheering for me. She also said how they would all love to meet me one day if I ever make it back east. It was nice to finally have a face top put to it.
I had many mixed feelings going into this fight. Sure everything was familiar to me so in many ways it all seemed normal. However, when I would think about the injury and everything that I had been through to get back here it made it seem like this enormous task. I wondered how I would perform. “Can I really do this again or am I just lying to myself?” I mean this fight was literally going to let me know where I was at and if this was even something that I could continue doing. Sure this was a ‘tune up fight’ but anything can happen. The guy I was fighting, Chris, was strong and capable, no pushover. On top of the fact I knew he would be going in there to make a name for himself. Just because he wasn’t on the same level as the guys that I had been fighting over the last few years didn’t mean he couldn’t beat me. The week leading up to the fight my emotions were all over the place. It had been such a long road yet now here it was, right in front of me. In some ways it seemed like it went by so fast. Once we are at the end of a long journey it can often seem brief. It’s not until I would look back and remember how long, slow and painful it all really was.
The camp went really well and my weight was right on point. I was fighting at 147 for this one, no point in killing myself the first fight back. I woke up day of weigh ins on weight, I didn’t even have to cut anything, just didn’t eat or drink for 24 hours. I actually came in at 146, it was a nice change. It felt so good going to weigh ins and seeing everyone, I really felt like I was back. I couldn’t stop smiling. Not to mention the fact that this was going to be the first live televised Muay Thai event. Lion Fight had signed a deal with AXSTV, which used to be HD NET. Then I find out at weigh ins that Pat Miletich and Michael Schiavello were going to be doing the commentating. It had been a dream of mine forever to have Schiavello commentate one of my fights and now it was happening on my comeback, couldn’t believe it. They did these pre fight interviews with us, felt like I was in a dream. I told Mike how great this was going to be for me having them doing the commentary. I knew that Muay Thai would one day make it big in this country, I just never thought that I would still be fighting when it happened. We weren't there yet but this was a step in the right direction, a big one. Pat had actually come up to me before weigh ins telling my how much he was looking forward to watching me fight. I said thank you but in my head I was like, “How do you even know who I am?” Even to this day it still surprises me when people know me.
I was on another roller coaster of emotions on the day of the fight. I would go from feeling so happy and blessed that I’d be crying to down in the dumps doubting myself. I knew I was here for a purpose and knew that no matter what God was with me and in control. I just wanted to go out there and perform, to be an inspiration, as always. I was feeling great physically, especially since I didn’t have to cut any weight. Had to do this live radio interview right before the fights, which was fun but it made it to where I had to rush in the back and get ready.
Tiffany was the co-main event, we shared the same changing room, I was so happy that she was there to share this all with me. It was so hard for me to keep it all together, more than a dream come true. She told me how proud of me she was and gave me a big hug, this almost put me over the edge but I was able to pull it back together. They called my name and we took the elevator down to behind the stage to wait to walk out.
Kirian, Chaz, Joe and Ky were all back there with me waiting to walk me out. Sitting there, waiting to go out, I was an emotional mess, in a good way. It took everything I had not to start balling because of how happy and blessed I felt. I knew if I started I wouldn’t be able to stop so I managed to hold it together. I was a actually lot calmer then I had expected. I mean I’m always super calm but even more so than normal. They finally announced my name, played my music (No Grave by Johnny Cash) and the whole place erupted. It was packed in there and so loud. I could just feel how happy everyone was to see me back, they might have even been happier than me. The feeling was indescribable. I made my way to the ring, just soaking every second in. Stopped by the steps, said a prayer and jumped over the ropes. Time to go to work.
I was surprised how much everything flowed in the fight. I didn’t hesitate, although I was having a little trouble with my distance and timing so my combos weren’t really coming off well. I was landing everything I threw though. All my kicks landed but unfortunately they were landing with my feet and ankles. I was in so much pain from it. I was hurting really bad during the fight but didn’t want to complain. Just pushed through. I could see everything that Chris was throwing at me so nothing landed cleanly. He was super tough, I landed some viscous shots and he just kept going. When that final bell sounded I just ran and jumped up on the ropes, I did it, made it back. Everyone in the audience was on their feet. When I got down from the ropes my mom, who had flown out for the fight, was standing there in the middle of the ring. I had no clue how she even got in there. She grabs me and gives me the biggest hug. My eyes just welled up and started pouring, I couldn’t hold it back. She told me how proud she was and I just held on to her as long as possible. Chaz, Joe, Mark, Anthony Brown and Kirian were all in there as well. Felt so great to share this moment with the people that are most important to me in this life.
I felt good about my performance. I mean I always want to do better and am never satisfied but all in all I felt good. My legs, however, did not, I could barely walk. At first I was trying to go around and say hello to everyone but eventually the pain was too much and I had to take a seat. Mark went and got me two big bags of ice and I just sat there in pain watching the rest of the fights. I finally made it back, couldn’t be happier, but this is just one step. On to the next one.
“Face your fears, live your dreams”