Less than two weeks after going to Sweden and ruining Iceland’s up-and-coming fighter Gunnar Nelson’s night, Rick Story is still basking in the glow of the upset. And he’s also wearing a boot, nursing a fractured tibia that he suffered during the course of the bout.
Story appeared on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour and said that, though he doubts he’ll fight again in 2014, his ankle is already coming along.
"It’s getting better everyday," he told host Ariel Helwani. "Right after surgery it sucked, but the pain went away pretty quick. It’s still a little painful, but I think it’ll be good to go in the time that the doctor told me."
Story said that he had a bone fragment taken out of his ankle, and that though he wasn’t put in a cast he has to relieve pressure with a boot while the fracture heals. He said he suspects the injury occurred early his main event fight in Stockholm.
"It was in the middle of the fight for sure -- I know it was close to the beginning because I quit throwing my left leg kick because it was hurting," he said. "It hurt to step on and put pressure [on it]. I watched the fight through [afterwards], and it could have even happened at the last second of the first round when I kicked Gunnar’s arms, or his elbows. So I’m not really sure. I saw myself walking off and was limping a little bit after that kick."
Nevertheless, Story, who trained for his last camp at The Lab in Arizona, showed plenty of perseverance to withstand the pain and finish the fight. He defeated the nearly 3-to-1 favorite Nelson via unanimous decision, and just like that re-entered the top 15 in the media-driven UFC rankings, where he sits at No. 12.
When asked how he was able to fight four rounds on a broken ankle, he said adrenaline carried him through.
It’s been an up-and-down path for Story, who was advancing rapidly up the welterweight rankings back in 2011 before suffering an untimely loss to replacement Charlie Brenneman at UFC Live: Kongo vs. Barry. In that fight, Brenneman stood in for Nate Marquardt (TRT) on a day’s notice, and made the most of the situation by upsetting Story.
That loss upset Story’s momentum and sent him into a bit of a tailspin, where he lost his next bout with Martin Kampnann and then traded wins and losses for the next year-and-a-half.
"I mean, it happened, and it was definitely a rocky road in my career," he said. "I definitely should have take the fights after three weeks of beating [Thiago] Alves. But I did what I did, and can’t take it back. But I feel like I’m in a good place now, and everything’s looking good for my future."
The Nelson victory was by far Story’s most high profile win since defeating Alves at UFC 130.
Yet, though the 30-year old Story has won back-to-back fights and three of four overall, he was reluctant to call anybody out after his victory over Nelson. He reiterated on the show that he doesn’t have a specific fighter in mind, but that he definitely wants to challenge himself against somebody ranked about him.
The problem, he said, is that most fighters in that space already have dance partners lined up, and so he doesn’t regret not using the platform to call his next shot.
"I mean, that’s not really my personality," he said. "I thought I made it pretty clear that I want somebody in the top ten. And when I said anybody, I meant anybody in the top ten.
"The welterweight division in the top ten still has some fights to pan out. I think I’ll have a little bit more of a clear idea after a couple of weeks goes by."
One of the fights that still needs to pan out is the 170-pound title fight itself, the rematch between Robbie Lawler and Johny Hendricks, which is slated to go down at UFC 181 on Dec. 6 in Las Vegas.
Though Story doesn’t presume to factor into title discussion yet, he is the only active fighter right now on the UFC’s roster who owns a victory over the current champion, Hendricks. When asked if he thinks that Hendricks is a different fighter from the one he beat at UFC 117, Story said maybe a little bit.
"He’s just a little bit more aggressive, he’s more confident with his punches, and that’s something you’ve got to be aware of," he said. "It’s definitely dangerous, especially getting hit by him. But, I’ve said it once, I was the only fighter to keep Johny backing up. And I really think that that’s the way you beat him."
Asked if that’s the blueprint to beating Hendricks, he said that pressure is the key.
"I think so, I mean, I’ve seen other fighters and they don’t really pressure him too much," he said. "They respect his power."
Because the UFC does factor in things like rivalries and timing, Story is obviously in a unique position as he climbs back into contention having that previous victory over Hendricks. He says that should he keep it going, and Hendricks retain his belt while he’s en-route, he could foresee a rematch being a cause to expedite things a little bit.
"I think so," he said. "As things have gone on in the past, how they want to hype fights and get things going, I have a good opportunity under my belt to be able to put on some good performances, get some good wins, and then really campaign for a title shot."
Asked if he thought that his ankle would keep him sidelined for the rest of 2014, Story said he thought it would, but that he was hoping to return to action within five months.