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C.B. Dollaway dealing with ‘permanent damage,’ lawsuit after being sidelined due to UFC 203 elevator incident

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UFC 186 Media Day Photos
C.B. Dollaway returns to fight Hector Lombard at UFC 222.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

C.B. Dollaway is returning to the middleweight division on March 3 when he takes on Hector Lombard at UFC 222, but the decision wasn’t one he planned to make.

Dollaway has been sidelined for the majority of the past 17 months after an incident with a malfunctioning hotel elevator forced him to withdraw from his 205-pound debut in Sept. 2016. Dollaway suffered a serious back injury when an elevator at the Wyndham Hotel in Cleveland malfunctioned the day before UFC 203, leading UFC doctors to pull Dollaway from his scheduled fight against Francimar Barroso. And while the situation may sound like the setup for a punchline, the aftermath has been no laughing matter.

Dollaway ended up being sidelined for another 10 months after UFC 203, struggling with back issues that wouldn’t go away, before he finally returned to face Ed Herman last July at The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale. By that point, Dollaway had suffered significant weight loss due to his struggles with back injuries, roughly about 10-15 pounds, which made his planned debut at light heavyweight a much different affair than he expected for UFC 203.

And even now, over a half-year since TUF 25 Finale, Dollaway is still feeling the effects of an injury that refuses to give him respite.

“There’s permanent damage,” Dollaway told MMA Fighting. “There’s no way to — it’s irreversible, essentially. I could go try to do a surgery or something, but my doctors have been like, ‘Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend it,’ because they don’t know how that’s going to turn out. So it just is what it is, you know?”

Not surprisingly, Dollaway, 34, said he is currently in litigation over the incident that not only stole a paycheck away from him, but also derailed a year of his fighting career.

Dollaway can’t talk about the situation much because of his lawsuit, but the road back to recovery has been tough. When he finally did make his light heavyweight debut against Herman, he did so as a diminished version of his former self, and the frustrating weight loss is what led to his move back down to 185 pounds for UFC 222. Dollaway said he still thinks a light heavyweight return could be possible in the future, but with his current situation, it’s certainly not imminent.

“It just depends if I put the size back on, which, I imagine I will. It’s just going to take a little time. Putting on 10 or 15 pounds of muscle, it’s hard, especially with high cardio and everything we do,” Dollaway said. “But yeah, I fought that fight there (in July) and I just didn’t feel the same as I did before. Like, when I had originally moved up, I felt big, strong, I feel good. Then this time when I went in there, I didn’t feel like myself at that weight, so I was like it’s probably better to go back down to middleweight.

“I just want to make sure I’m healthy,” he added. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to walk away from this sport with millions and millions of dollars, most likely, so you’ve got to make sure your body’s good when you leave the sport. I’m not going to rush back in and get permanently injured even more, so I’ve got to look out for myself a little bit.

“When you walk away (from mixed martial arts), are you going to be able to function? At the end of the day, I want to make sure I can still live a decent life when I’m done with it.”

Dollaway now hopes that 2018 brings with it a new, more positive chapter to his career. After fighting just once over the past 27 months, he simply wants to get reestablished in the middleweight division and hopefully end the year with a number by his name in the UFC’s official media-generated rankings. And that climb back to the top starts with Lombard, a longtime veteran and former Bellator middleweight champion.

“He’s a buzz saw,” Dollaway said of Lombard. “When you go out there, you know: The first round, you better be ready to get it, because he’s coming. I feel like he’s a guy who knows he doesn’t have a big gas tank, he’s not looking to go into deep waters, and he’s going to come out and try to get you out of there in the first round.

“So it’s kinda one of those things, you’re going to have to survive the storm. Hopefully get through that and then take over.

“I’ve been in those grueling, crazy-ass fights that you pretty much win on guts, and I’m willing to do that. I don’t know if he is. I feel like when it starts getting tough, he might look for a way out. I’ve proven myself. I’ve been in there, I’ve been in those tough fights right up until the end. Some of my fights have been decided, I think, in the last 30 seconds, getting that reversal or getting on top and getting control of something. So we’ll see how it goes.”

It’s no secret that Lombard has struggled of late. The former Olympic judoka has lost four consecutive fights since testing positive for an anabolic steroid in 2015. In three of those losses, Lombard has been knocked out. He also celebrated his 40th birthday at the beginning of February.

Nonetheless, after experiencing his own rough road to UFC 222, Dollaway isn’t overlooking a veteran who used to be one of the most feared men at 185 pounds.

“There’s one thing they always say, the last thing to go is your power,” Dollaway said. “Maybe his speed isn’t there, maybe his reflexes aren’t there, but he’s still got power if he catches you. And he’s a southpaw, which makes him awkward.

“If he catches you, he’ll turn your lights out, so you better be on your toes, you better be ready, and you better respect him.”