Nelson survives brutal car crash

Gunnar Nelson and Jorge Santiago
Gunnar Nelson makes his return to the Octagon against Omari Akhemdov.
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Damon Martin

Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the sport since 2004. His work has been published in CNN, Bleacher Report, MMAWeekly.com, Yahoo! Sports, UFC.com and SportsIllustrated.com. He also co-hosts The Great Debate Radio MMA podcast, and has appeared on ESPN Radio and SportsNet Radio. Follow him on Twitter.


UFC welterweight Gunnar Nelson survived a brutal car crash in Reykjavik, Iceland on Saturday—escaping with only minor cuts and bruises.

Nelson was traveling with friends during an outing as part of the MMA club where both he and his father are instructors. About two hours into the car ride, Nelson's vehicle hit an icy patch of road and the car swerved out of control, rolling several times down a hill.

(Þráinn Kolbeinsson)

According to Nelson's father Halli Nelson, who spoke to FOX Sports on Tuesday, it was a very serious accident that could have gone much worse.

"This happened on Saturday but we had been planning a staff outgoing at our MMA club. I’m the CEO of the club and Gunnar is of course one of the coaches. The plan was to go out of the city into the countryside, have some fun and stay over night at a some holiday cottages about two hours drive from Reykjavik," Nelson explained via email.

"Gunnar and one of our BJJ coaches along with two other friends had gone ahead before the rest of us driving a pickup and Gunnar was sitting in the passenger front seat. They were planning to meet with us later on that day. They had been driving for about two hours or so and when they come out of a turn the road suddenly is icy and extremely slippery. The car slides off the road and rolls over 3-4 times down the hill and into the river Thjorsa (Þjórsá) but that is Iceland longest river. At very cold glacier river that has its source in one of Iceland's biggest glaciers (Hofsjökull).

"The car however ends up on its wheels in the river, completely done for, all windows gone and the roof had gone down (mostly where Gunnar was sitting) and stopped on Gunnar’s seat. If the car had gone one meter further into the river it would have hit deep waters and the strong current would have taken it, and of course then the car would probably not have ended on it’s wheels. So they were very lucky."

Nelson explains that where the car swerved off the road gave them just enough room for the vehicle to land back on its wheels and help stop the motion. A few more feet one way or the other and the accident could have been much worse, if not fatal to any or all of the passengers involved.

"If they had gone off road (a) few meters before or later it would have been much worse and they would also have gone in the river," Nelson explained. "They crawled out of the car’s window to get out because all the doors were of course completely battered and unusable. All four of them got away with scratches basically (they were all wearing seat belts) even though Gunnar had to have about 10-11 stitches in his right arm. But he’s fine and will be ready to start training again in a short while.

"The Icelandic police and the ambulance paramedic couldn’t believe how lucky they were and said it was a completely beyond understanding that they got out of this almost without a scratch."

The good news is all of the passengers were fine and walked away from a potentially tragic accident unscathed. Nelson's father said his son is doing well and is in good spirits since the crash and is looking forward to returning to training in the very near future.

Then he plans to return to the UFC in the first part of 2014 to resume his fight career.

"Gunnar will start training again soon and he’s hoping to fight in the beginning of next year," Nelson said in closing.

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