Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby knows all too well what UFC lightweight T.J. Grant is going through.
Crosby, who missed huge chunks of the 2010-11 and 2011-12 NHL seasons with concussion symptoms, reached out to Grant because the mixed martial artist is currently dealing with similar issues and both athletes hail from Cole Harbour, N.S.
Grant revealed on The MMA Hour earlier this week that the NHL superstar recommended he go to the Carrick Institute in Atlanta, an establishment Crosby visited that helps diagnose and treat brain injuries including post-concussion syndrome.
“[Crosby] got in touch with me through a mutual friend,” Grant explained. “Nice guy, reached out, gave me some information and kind of told me about his situation and he recommended I go check this place out. I’m really appreciative of him taking the time. I know he’s a busy guy. It meant a lot.
“We’re just a few years apart in age and grew up in the same town, so you just kind of know some of the same people and he took the time to reach out. It speaks a lot to the kind of human he is.”
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Grant said he's set to visit the Carrick Institute in a few weeks and that he’s “optimistic” because they were able to help Crosby.
The 30-year-old earned a UFC lightweight title shot after finishing Gray Maynard impressively by first-round knockout at UFC 160 last May. The Canadian was 5-0 in the 155-pound division and scheduled to meet then-champion Benson Henderson at UFC 164. However, Grant suffered a concussion while training jiu-jitsu that forced him out of the event; Anthony Pettis was named Grant’s replacement and ended up submitting Henderson to win the title.
While no return date has been set, Grant feels like he’s inching closer to full health.
"I've been feeling pretty good for a while,” Grant said. “If you don't feel normal--and there's definitely been days where, ‘Do I feel normal? No’--but when I feel good, I feel good. I'm getting pretty close to feeling 100 percent normal, but still a little bit of a hurdle…I can train balls out fitness and all that stuff. I have no ill effects. I roll jiu-jitsu, I hit pads, all that stuff. I get my heart rate through the roof. I'm fine. I'm in great shape (but) it's just weird. When you don't feel normal, you just don't feel normal. That's kind of where I'm at still. I want to make sure I'm 100 percent. When I am, I'm definitely going to get back in there.
Although he has been rocked in fights and training sessions, Grant said that this was the first documented concussion of his career, even though the reality is he has likely suffered a few.
“I've never had any type of headaches or nausea or any of that stuff [in the past],” Grant said. “So I'd say that's my first recorded concussion, but as a fighter, it's hard to really put a number on the amount of them."
Grant also said when he hit a rough patch in the winter he contemplated retirement.
“It just got frustrating. I just tried to take it one day at a time. I love fighting. I don't know what my life would be without somehow being involved in the sport. There were just times where you have all these really negative thoughts and you're bitter and all this other stuff. I feel pretty good. It's all in the past. Still, my health comes number one and my family and all that, but fighting is definitely a huge part of my life. I definitely don't want to go out on that type of note…I just want the opportunity to go out there and do what I want to do. I try not to cry over spilled milk and all I can control is myself, my attitude and what I'm going to do the next day. That's really all I can do."
If and when he returns to the cage, Grant said he’d be interested in a fight with either popular veterans Nate Diaz or Donald Cerrone.