As you probably remember the last time I was in the UFC Octagon was December 11, 2010, challenging your boy Georges St-Pierre for the UFC welterweight world title in Montreal at UFC 124.
It was a rough night for me. Pretty much the first punch Georges landed, a hard jab, broke my orbital socket (the round bone in your skull that your eyes sit in) but also my orbital plate (the cheekbone).
I had no depth perception and was basically a one-eyed fighter for the next 23 minutes. I can man up but the pain was just horrible. It hurt worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. It hurt even more than when I cut my big toe off when I was six — when I was playing with my grandfather’s axe being a little shit.
Seriously — the eye hurt way worse than chopping my big toe off.
I had major surgery after the fight. The doctors told me that I took the punch right in the eyeball, and what happens when the eye takes a direct impact is the bone explodes and drops down in order to stop the pressure to the eye resulting in an exploding eyeball.
So there I was, first or second minute into the biggest fight of my life, and I’m lucky my eyeball hadn’t just exploded. Thing is, the fact I’d talked so much trash about Georges and I’d helped hype the fight so hard for so long, I couldn’t let everyone down by pulling out with an injury after a couple of minutes. I feel bad the fight didn’t live up to the hype, but I did my best to clip GSP with a punch somehow.
Props to GSP, he won fair and square. It wasn’t a thumb or a finger to the eye or anything — he damaged me with a punch. GSP got another big win and I had fell flat on my face in front of thousands in the arena and millions around the world. And it got worse because I was told I’d be out a long time.
But this summer, I was able to start training again and by July was ready to fight. You probably saw that I was considering going to middleweight, and the reason I wanted to fight at middleweight was everyone at 170 pounds who meant anything was already locked up with a fight.
Watch UFC Fight Night: Battle on the Bayou live on Sportsnet East, Ontario and West this Saturday at 9 p.m. ET. Jake Shields faces Jake Ellenberger in the main event, while sportsnet.ca blogger Jason MacDonald takes on Alan Belcher.
To be honest, and mentioning no names, the people the UFC wanted me to fight just didn’t interest me at all. The names they offered me were just “paydays” — fights to get on a card and have a fight, take a shower get a payday and go home and I don’t want to fight those guys.
After the GSP fight, I needed to come back and remind everyone what I am all about and if I couldn’t do that at 170 pounds I figured maybe as a one-off just to have a major fight to come back with, I’d take a fight at 185 pounds. Realistically, I asked to fight Wanderlei Silva, Chris Leben and even Rich Franklin at 185.
But then last week I got word Matt Hughes, who has avoided me for years, needed an opponent for UFC 135 in Denver on Sept. 24. I’ve called out Hughes for so long but he’s always avoided me. When he was on top and one of the top in the division, he used his position to avoid fighting me and all the AKA guys.
But when Diego Sanchez pulled out hurt with three weeks to go, I knew the UFC would have no choice but to try to talk Hughes into fighting me. Like I knew he would, he tried to suggest fighting Jon Fitch instead, knowing full well Fitch is still recovering from shoulder surgery.
I tweeted that I’d accepted the fight and was ready, just to put pressure on Hughes to quit bitching and take the fight. I wanted to make it so that if he did turn the fight down, all the fans would know that he bitched out.
He had nowhere else to go and I’ve finally got my fight with Matt Hughes.