Matt Hamill's third stab at his fighting career may not have started as planned, but at least some good came out of his lost weekend. Three days after Hamill was forced to withdraw from his World Series of Fighting 19 bout due to illness, Hamill was driving to visit family in Ohio when a vehicle driven by a disorientated woman suddenly barreled past him going the wrong way on a busy one-way highway.
"Everyone was going like 70 miles per hour. She was driving the wrong way, just kind of swerving around," Hamill told MMAFighting.com. "She was going slower but she was going on the wrong side of the street, and you could see her face, she was kind of drooling. There was obviously something going on with her that just wasn't right. She was breathing fine, but you could just tell there was something, some issues.
"It seemed like Pac-Man, trying to avoid all the little ghosts. She was all over the place."
Against his better judgment, Hamill flipped his truck around and gave chase to the errant vehicle. The woman eventually trailed off into the grass median, allowing Hamill to catch up, approach his vehicle near hers, then give chase on foot. The woman was bewildered and largely unresponsive by that point, Hamill says.
Hamill ran up alongside the vehicle and it was only then that the ex-UFC fighter noticed a little boy, no older than five years old, bawling in the backseat of the vehicle. So he did the only thing he could think to do -- he punched out the window and manually stopped the car.
"A lot of the cars, they had been honking. And I'm sure that the noise and the car just weaving (upset him)," Hamill said. "He had a seatbelt on and he was in his car seat, but I'm sure it was a scary situation and he was worried what was going on. The mother was just weaving all over the road.
"He was fine and everything, just a little bit upset, but if she hadn't been stopped I definitely feel like someone would've ran into something. The mother was on drugs and had been drinking apparently."
Police soon arrived at the scene and arrested the woman, thanking Hamill for his quick thinking. The mother, 27-year-old Nicole Lamendola, was ultimately charged with felony DWI, while the child was turned over to a family member.
Hamill (11-5) says he's simply glad the little boy was okay, crediting the adrenaline of the situation for feeding him enough strength to act despite still suffering from the same virus that led to his withdrawal from WSOF 19's co-main event against Thiago Silva on just a few hours' notice.
"Before the weigh-ins, I started to feel a bit ill, but I was just trying to cope with it myself," Hamill explained. "I started to feel maybe like I had a sinus infection in the beginning. I felt like my head was getting pretty full and I started to have some drainage, and then that evening I went to bed and it just started getting worse and worse.
"(After weigh-ins), I started to have stomach issues. I had some sort of virus inside and I wasn't able to eat anything, keep anything down. My coaches were looking at me like, ‘Man, you're not looking to good.' So I went to the doctor and the doctor checked me out. He said, ‘My goodness, you can't fight. There's no way. You have this awful sinus infection. You have a stomach virus as well.' The two of them combined, I was throwing up a bunch and I was having a really tough time. I had been training so hard, it was a really hard decision for me after doing all this training, then to all of a sudden get sick. It just really sucks that happened."
Hamill admits it was "bittersweet" to watch the previously unheralded Teddy Holder take his place and stun Silva with a first-round knockout on short notice, securing a chance to fight for the inaugural WSOF light heavyweight title.
At 38 years old, it's been nearly three years since Hamill last picked up a professional win, but he vowed not to let Saturday's incident stop him in his comeback trail.
"Of course I'm going to (fight again)," Hamill said. "The most important thing first is I need to get myself healthy. I'm finally eating a bit more. It's definitely slow going, but I'm getting there. I'm getting back to the gym soon and I'll be training. That's my goal, for sure."