The Blackzilians team has had to be resilient of late, with Rashad Evans going down with an injury just before his UFC 170 fight with Daniel Cormier, Thiago Silva’s arrest for aggravated battery in February, and now Tyrone Spong’s gruesome leg break, which happened at Glory 15 in Turkey.
Spong snapped his right leg on Gokha Saki’s shin during their kickboxing fight in Istanbul while attempting a low kick. There were differing reports about the injury, which looked very similar to Anderson Silva’s leg break at UFC 168 against Chris Weidman a little over months earlier – some were saying it was a clean break, and some were saying it wasn’t.
The Blackzilians coach and Spong’s cornerman Henri Hooft was on the scene in Turkey, and he appeared on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour to shed some light on the nature of the injury, and how Spong is doing now that he's back in South Florida.
"He’s in good spirits, and he’s recovering really good," Hooft told Ariel Helwani. "It was only a couple of days ago, so we had a very big travel back from Turkey. Yesterday we had some barbecue and he’s walking a little bit, little by little, and he’s in good spirits. We’ll try and get him in the gym tomorrow."
Hooft said that Spong is already antsy enough to begin exercises on the long road back to recovery. The 28-year old Dutch-Surinamese kickboxer -- who is 2-0 in his nascent MMA career -- has been using Hooft as a crutch to get from point A to point B. But a week removed from surgery, he's mobile and already focused on coming back.
As for nature of the injury, Hooft said they were lucky that it was a clean break.
"[Tyrone] broke his tibia in two places, and there’s a small crack in the other bone, the fibula," he said. "But they’re all clean breaks, it looks very good. There’s a pin through the whole shin. It was a clean break, and as you saw in the video he wasn’t really…normally guys, when they break their leg, they step on their leg and it totally breaks over. Tyrone felt it, went on the floor on his butt, and looked to us, to the corner with a face like, is this really happening to me?"
The scene that ensued was one of general disbelief and shock, but also endearment. Saki, realizing that Spong was seriously injured almost immediately, went beyond the general show of sportsmanship by hugging Spong and staying with him as he sat on the canvas. Hooft said he didn’t realize Saki was doing that at the time, as he was concerned for Spong -- but he wasn’t surprised when he realized the gesture later.
"You have to understand, Tyrone and Saki, they’ve known each other for a long time and they are very competitive at the highest level," he said. "It was beautiful to see, of course."
With a broken leg in a foreign country, the Blackzilians were forced to make a decision on whether to take Spong back to the United States or not before surgery. They elected to fly home, which in itself became a nightmare scenario.
Hooft said that Spong was giving blood-thinner injections from a doctor in the first class cabin every four hours or so and was constantly massaged. Meanwhile a fight broke out on the airplane which disrupted the travel, they missed their connection in New York to West Palm Beach, and ended having to take a car from Miami.
Once there he finally had surgery on his right leg, and is now just beginning his recovery process.
Asked if he thought that Spong would be able to make a return to fighting, Hooft said he had no doubt.
"I’ve been doing this for 29 years already in this sport, I have over 100 fights myself, I saw a lot of stuff happening around me," he said. "But I never saw somebody like Tyrone Spong. He’s a totally different person…I have no doubt that he will be only stronger when he comes back. He’s not worried about kicking with that leg. He has a lot of weapons to use, but he will be kicking with that leg and he will be strong.
"He is only 28 years young, and that is his first real big injury, and we have to look at how he copes with that. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s back next year going for the title, because that’s what he wants."