Road to recovery

Injuries are an unavoidable reality of life in the UFC.

The severity and timing of an injury can wreak havoc on a
career, and time and again over the last few years, we’ve
seen hard-charging contenders and dominant champions forced to the
sidelines for extended periods of time at the most inopportune
times – not that there’s really a good time to get
injured.

And so we decided to create the Road to Recovery series –
a bi-weekly Q&A with top UFC stars on the mend designed to fill
you in their journey back to the Octagon.

Selecting a participant for our first installment was easy.

Canadian lightweight contender TJ Grant was supposed to be the
man battling Benson Henderson for the UFC lightweight title last
Saturday night at UFC 164 in Milwaukee, but the Cole Harbour, Nova
Scotia native suffered a concussion and was forced to withdraw from
the biggest fight of his career.

We spoke to the surging title hopeful two days after the event
– and a day before UFC President Dana White confirmed that
Grant, and not Jose Aldo would be the first man to challenge
Anthony Pettis for the lightweight strap.

Hungry for his opportunity and getting healthier by the day, TJ
Grant is on the Road to Recovery.

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I know you said you were moving over the weekend.
How’d everything go?

It went pretty good. We had a lot of help. It’s been a
pretty busy week, but like I said, we had a lot of help. It
wasn’t too bad. For people that moved in here three days ago,
it’s pretty much all set up. We have to hang stuff up on the
walls, but other than that, we’re pretty good.

You know there are going to be conspiracy theorists out
there that say, “Look at that – TJ Grant is able to
move into a new house. Must be that UFC money he got to step
aside,” right?

I guess that has nothing to do with Mike Tyson getting me the
Knockout of the Night (UFC 160) or that I’ve won my last five
fights. That’s why I’m not making too big a deal about
moving in because I’m sure that would definitely get some
people talking about it.

Right – it has nothing to do with five consecutive
win and show checks, plus a Knockout of the Night bonus, a Fight of
the Night bonus from the Evan Dunham fight (UFC 152), and surely
some increased sponsor pay along the way as well.


Right. Everything is getting better.

Shifting to (UFC 164), what were your impressions of
Anthony Pettis’ performance and how was it for you watching
the fight?

I already dealt with the disappointment and all that. I just
wanted to watch the fight – see how it played out. I thought
Anthony was going to win – that was my opinion. That’s
no disrespect to Benson (Henderson), I just felt stylistically that
he’s a finisher, and it was going to be a good fight. Pettis
did his things, man; it was a pretty good performance.

In his post-fight speech, he acknowledged you, but then
immediately went to Jose Aldo, saying they have unfinished
business. What was the first thing that went through your head when
you heard that?

I know he wants the big marquee fight, but you know what –
the UFC has got to make a stand here. There can’t be guys
– he won the title, but he hasn’t done anything at
155.

Jon Jones can move around – he’s cleaned out the
division. (Same things for) Anderson Silve. There’s a
line-up. These are the two busiest, most stacked divisions, with
contenders through the Top 15. I feel like you gotta start having
these title fights.

I hope he’s healthy. Obviously, I’m not 100 percent
yet; I’m on the road though. I feel like in the last three
weeks, I’ve made a lot of progress, and I definitely want
that fight. I fought to get where I am, and that’s the fight
I want.

I agree with you completely about these being the deepest
divisions. There are contenders waiting in line for a title shot,
and guys have to know they’re fighting towards
something.

You’ve got Cub Swanson, Ricardo Lamas, and (Chad) Mendes
who had a great performance on the weekend. There’s all these
super-talented dudes at 145; they have to start getting their title
shots. I love “The Korean Zombie” – I think
he’s entertaining as hell – but I think he was probably
the least deserving guy of those three that I mentioned in terms of
a title shot.

Jose Aldo is a great fighter, but he’s going to have to
fight those guys, man. The UFC has to start building guys up
– not just champions. Guys gotta start getting their
opportunities. I know it’s a business and they want to make
money, but at the same time, when one guy gets injured and they
throw another guy in and no one knows who the hell that is,
that’s not (the new fighter’s) fault. If they were
promoted a little more…

Well we went a long time where a lot of people said Chris
Weidman wasn’t ready yet, wasn’t a big enough name to
fight Anderson Silva – now he’s the UFC middleweight
champion, and their rematch is poised to be one of the biggest
fights of the last two or three years.

Exactly. I was happy to see Chris get that fight. I thought he
was going to do it, and it was great to see him get that
opportunity. He went out there, and he seized the moment.

We’ll shift to your injury. You’ve mentioned in
the past that you suffered the concussion when you were (training
jiu-jitsu).

How have the past few months been, and how soon until you
think you’re ready to get back into camp, getting ready for a
fight?

I’ve been hitting some light workouts and stuff, feeling
better, and not really having any setbacks because of the workouts.
To tell you the truth, television and an iPhone can sometimes cause
more issues. I was getting nauseous if I watched TV or listened to
musin on my phone, but I’m beyond that now.

I’m trying not to over-do it though. The workouts have
been just starting to get a little more intense. I’ve been
doing hot yoga. My goal for this week is to start pushing it a
little bit. I’m going to stay off the mats for another month
– I’m getting married October 5th, and I feel like
there’s no point in really doing too much before that other
than getting healthy, getting in good shape.

For most of the summer, literally there was no exercise. People
thought I hurt my head in July, but really I hurt it two weeks
after I fought Gray, before the fights in Winnipeg; that’s
when I got the concussion. I literally didn’t train from June
13 until whenever I pulled out of the fight, which was like a full
month later or something like that.

I haven’t done any training up until a couple weeks ago
when I started doing some yoga and light cardio and stuff like
that.

Congratulations on getting married. Definitely a wise
decision to not push too hard before the wedding – you
can’t show up with a black eye or a busted nose.

I was willing to fight any time before the wedding, but it would
be hard to fight the week after your wedding, but that’s off
the table now.

Can you talk about some of the symptoms and issues
you’ve been dealing with this summer? As much as concussions
are in the sporting news right now – with the NFL’s
recent settlement and fellow Cole Harbour resident Sidney Crosby
being a guy that we as Canadians have fixated on a lot for his
concussion issues – there’s still a lot that is
unknown.

You hear people saying, “Oh – TJ Grant has the
worst concussion in the history of all concussions,” but
they’re so different in severity, so different from
everybody, and in a sport where you can take repeated blows to the
head, it seems prudent to take make sure you’re completely
recovered regardless of what that means in terms of postponing
fights and missing major opportunities.

I had never had a concussion before, and if this is what a
concussion is – I’ve sparred plenty, and who
hasn’t gotten their bell rung? I definitely see all the other
sports, see everything that comes with it, and I don’t want
to make a bad decision. There is life after fighting, and the way I
lived this summer is not any way to live. I wouldn’t wish
that on anyone. I wouldn’t want to face that again or maybe
worse.

My approach is to approach this as safely as I can, even when
I’m ready to get back into the gym, which is something
I’m looking forward to doing because I definitely miss it.
Just the social aspect too – you get to hang out with the
boys everyday, and you go from that to (not really seeing
anybody).

I’m definitely trying to get in there and enjoy myself a
little bit, and get back into the routine.

I had read that you were at the point this summer with your
symptoms where you weren’t even able to really play with your
newborn daughter all that much because it would be too much for
you?

It’s tough when you’re sitting there and
you’re trying to play with your kid, and they start crying or
the TVs on, any kind of noise – it gets tough. I was pretty
much just trying to keep it as low-key as possible.

Everybody’s different, and I’m hoping this goes away
as soon as possible because I want to get back on the horse.

The other bit of news that came out at the post-fight press
conference was that Pettis felt a pop in his knee.

If he’s now sidelined for an extended period, do you
look at other guys, try to figure out fights that make sense? And
ideally, when do you think you’ll be ready to get back in the
cage?

I want to find out what the UFC wants to do, first of all. I
want to get healthy, but at the same time, I predict (I’ll be
ready to go) in 4-6 months, especially at the rate I’m going
now. I want to fight Pettis. I don’t want to fight anybody
else, but it’s up to the UFC. It’s whatever they
want.

I know what I want – I want to go out there and fight the
champion. That’s my goal.