It’s hard to find a photo of top ranked UFC flyweight contender John Dodson without a giant grin across his face.
The former Ultimate Fighter winner loves what he does and he expresses that every time he’s at a press conference, weigh-in or even stare down in the cage as he smiles from ear to ear in preparation for the battle ahead. It’s that kind of brimming positivity that will get Dodson through his next challenge that will take him away from the Octagon for at least a year.
Dodson underwent ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) surgery on Wednesday to repair damage to his knee as well as a torn meniscus and the top contender at 125-pounds is expected to be on the shelf for at least the next six to eight months with his next fight likely scheduled about a year from now.
"I’m looking at six to eight months of me actually being out before I can start going back in the gym and going hard and stuff. About a year (before a fight)," Dodson told FOX Sports on Thursday.
I’m looking at six to eight months of me actually being out before I can start going back in the gym and going hard and stuff. About a year (before a fight)
— John Dodson
The genesis of Dodson’s knee problem goes back to 2013 when he was preparing for a bout against Scott Jorgensen and he fell out due to injury. Dodson rehabbed and took time to allow his knee to heal, but during his next bout against John Moraga at UFC Fight Night in Albuquerque in June, his knee started becoming problematic again.
"I ended up tearing my ACL and my MCL before the Scott Jorgensen fight and then when I was getting ready for this fight against John Moraga, I didn’t know it was going to be too much of a problem but then when I threw that first kick, I felt my knee pop when I threw that first kick in that first round and that’s when I felt it go out," Dodson explained.
"I didn’t think too much of it because my knee didn’t swell up or anything. I thought it was just another little sprain on it."
By Monday morning after the fight, Dodson’s knee felt fine again and without any kind of swelling, he thought it was just another minor injury he could heal with time off before his next bout inside the Octagon.
Dodson went on a run like he does so often after a fight just to get a sweat worked up and that’s when the knee went out on him again.
"It popped again that Monday after the fight when I went to go run," Dodson said. "I was running, running and then I heard I pop again and I was like maybe I need to tell somebody and my manager forced me to go to the doctors and get it checked it out and get the final opinion on it."
Following an MRI, Dodson was told he had a torn meniscus but after further review his doctors told him he completely tore his ACL and would require full reconstructive surgery.
"It turns out I blew the whole thing," Dodson said.
The news was obviously devastating considering outside of having a broken hand in previous fights, Dodson has never been forced to take off any serious time during his entire fight career. This diagnosis puts him out for at least a year as he was standing on the precipice of a title shot against champion Demetrious Johnson at some point in 2014.
Now Dodson has to focus on rest and recovery while handing Johnson a stay of execution until he can get back in the Octagon again in 2015.
"I was messing with Demetrious Johnson and I really, really, really want to beat this dude up. I want that title. I was gearing for it and getting ready for this fight," Dodson said.
If there is a silver lining to this entire grey cloud situation, Dodson has talked to other fighters who went through a similar surgery and the message has been clear that the knee heals and many times athletes can even come back stronger with a completely healthy joint following rehabilitations. Former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre felt no ill effects on his knee after returning from ACL surgery, and featherweight contender Conor McGregor is about to get back in action next weekend in Dublin with all reports stating he has been performing at full strength with no issues in his knee.
Dodson expects to follow suit although the time off will be tough on a fighter who loves to stay active inside and outside the Octagon. For the next year, however, Dodson will just keep laser focus on those fighters who will end up on his war path when he returns to the UFC next year.
At the top of that list is Johnson and the UFC flyweight title.
"That means I can go out there and do what I wanted to do in the first place — destroy Demetrious Johnson and that’s what the game plan was. He can go ahead and take his little time off and be okay being a loser. He didn’t want to fight me now he doesn’t have to fight me," Dodson said.
"I’m trying to get ready for all my future endeavors and game plan on what I’m going to do to people when I come back."