TJ Grant was forced to pull out of his UFC 164 main event against lightweight champion Benson Henderson with a concussion and it may have cost him an immediate title shot when he returns.
Henderson will now face Anthony Pettis on the Aug. 31 card in Pettis’ hometown of Milwaukee and Grant isn’t guaranteed to face whoever emerges victorious.
“(UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva said best case scenario I fight the winner, worst case scenario I have to fight one more No. 1 contender fight,” Grant told Sid Seixeiro on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Monday.
“It’s not like I’m going to the back of the pack.”
Grant’s injury occurred shortly after he earned a title shot with a brutal knockout win over Gray Maynard at UFC 160 in May.
“I was training jiu-jitsu, probably a few weeks after the Gray Maynard fight, and ya a guy was just going for a sweep or something like that and his heel hit me in the ear. It was just a good solid shot; it didn’t really do anything as far as wobble me or anything like that,” Grant explained.
“We just kept rolling and then later on in the roll, I posted my head out to try and stop a sweep and it was one of those two things because … after we were done that night I just went home and I just knew something wasn’t right. That was before the UFC in Winnipeg (on June 15) so I’ve had that weight on my shoulders, trying to get better every day.”
Grant, 29, explained that even though he has been rocked and dropped in the past that this is the first time he’s had a concussion.
“I’ve been following the basic concussion protocol just trying to get better. … I’m going to be back fighting. I’m getting better every day. … This isn’t going to change how I fight or how I approach fights.”
He added that he wasn’t able to do any exercises, let alone train, for four weeks after the incident and was conflicted about what to do before ultimately letting the UFC know about his head injury.
“I waited for as long as I could. I made a decision that was I felt like best for me long term,” Grant said.
A turning point in Grant’s decision-making process actually came while he was watching UFC 162 on July 6.
Grant (21-5) explained that he watched the event from his home and “may or may not have won some money on (the Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman) fight and I may or may not have done a victory lap around my house and maybe I yelled a couple profanities in a happy way and that set me back basically to when I got my concussion.”
The Cole Harbour, N.S., native added that he didn’t want to leave the UFC in a tough spot by getting back to full training only to find out too late that he still wasn’t healthy enough to fight.
“I don’t want to be a selfish guy,” Grant said. “It really broke my heart to make the decision. I had to do what was best for me, my family, I’ve got a little baby girl here and I just want to keep my brain intact.
“I don’t feel like this hurts my stock in any way. The UFC was cool with it. I don’t know, they’re probably more happy with it realistically because this is the fight they wanted to see, unfortunately for myself.”
The Henderson vs. Pettis matchup – a rematch of their epic WEC 53 fight – has been long talked about and overall is a more marketable matchup than a Henderson vs. Grant bout, which led to a conspiracy that circulated quickly on social media.
Minutes after the change was announced, many alleged the UFC paid off an uninjured Grant in order to put together the new UFC 164 main event.
Grant vehemently shot down the conspiracy theory.
“I was pissed off for like an hour, but you can’t argue with an idiot,” Grant said. “You can’t win. There’s not even a point in responding to it. I made one response and I stand by my comments.”
Sorry all you conspiracy theorists. @danawhite / @ufc did not and could not pay me any amount of money to step aside.