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Finally healthy, Germaine de Randamie reflects on ‘dark’ times when she wondered if she was done with MMA

After a long and at times nightmarish 17-month layoff, Germaine de Randamie is finally ready to return to the Octagon.

The former UFC women’s featherweight champion has been sidelined since capturing the UFC’s inaugural 145-pound strap with a unanimous decision win over Holly Holm in Feb. 2017. In the time since that fight, much has happened. De Randamie became the target of a toxic groundswell of online vitriol from many MMA fans for her refusal to fight Cris Cyborg and the UFC’s subsequent decision to strip her of her belt. Not only that, but a botched hand surgery kept her inactive and derailed her comebacks plans.

But now, with her hand finally healed and her mind and body refreshed, de Randamie is once again ready to resume her fighting career.

“To be honest, there have been some times that I was afraid [my MMA career was over],” de Randamie admitted Monday on The MMA Hour. “Absolutely. But I tried to stay very positive. I’m a very positive human being, and I always kept hope. I knew I had to be patient [with my hand]. I knew it was going to be a big test for me.

“I just couldn’t bear the pain anymore. I could not train through it and my hand was swollen up. I couldn’t even put my hand in a glove. So I decided to go along and have surgery, and everything went perfectly, I was ahead of schedule, and then everything went backwards. The hand started to work against me. I couldn’t train anymore, it was hurting again, so my doctor told me I had to take some time off and relax the hand a little bit and give it time to heal, because, I mean, I’ve been fighting for 19 years.

“I’ve had a lot of battles, so some damage was done. But right now I’m cleared by the doctors, also by the UFC doctors, and I’m ready to go and fully back in training, and I couldn’t be happier. I feel great and I’m getting better and better every day.”

De Randamie’s hand issues were far from the only factor that contributed to what she admits became a “dark” period in her life.

In addition her frustration over her injury, the constant hatred she received online from MMA fans was at times both nauseating and overwhelming. Her decision to not defend her title against Cyborg because of the Brazilian’s PED past was an unpopular one, and there were many fans who spewed all manner of inhumane venom her way, she said, with many anonymous voices on social media even telling her to commit suicide.

The constant barrage of negativity made for difficult times during her recovery.

“They absolutely did [tell me to kill myself], and they even made pictures of a gravestone with my name and date of death on it, so it was pretty tough,” de Randamie said. “That’s not cool. People telling you you’re worthless and, yeah, it’s tough. But at the same time, like I said, I’m a very positive person and being able to sometimes share a message with people, to let people know that it’s not okay — nobody likes to hear [those kinds of words], and some people I think don’t realize how much impact those words can have on somebody. I have a very great support group behind me, people who love me and surround me with love. But there are people, children, who maybe don’t have that or have a bad period in life.

“It can happen to any one of us. If somebody tells them to commit suicide or tells them they’re worthless, maybe they decide to act, and that’s the scariest thing about it.”

De Randamie said she tried to busy herself during her time away by working on her life outside of the gym. She went to school to get her degree and is now employed full-time as a police officer in her native Holland. And although she never expected the blowback that came her way for the way her run ended at 145 pounds, she still stands behind her decision.

“I would still make the same decisions, absolutely,” de Randamie said. “… Because it makes me the person that I am today. I still stand for what I believe, and if you look back at any interview that I gave before that fight, before the fight with Holly, in every interview I always said I’ll go back to 135. And all of a sudden, it was such a big deal. Which I absolutely understand, and that’s on the side note of the whole Cyborg thing. But the most important thing is to stand for your decisions, and I stand for every decision I make.

“Every decision you make in life has consequences, and I knew the decision that I made would have consequences. Did I know that it was going to be that bad? I mean, not being stripped of the title, but all those negative things people said, did I expect that to happen? Absolutely not. Do I wish that upon anybody? Never, ever, ever. You shouldn’t say those things to people. Would I still do it all over again and make the same decision? Yes, I would, absolutely, and I don’t disagree with my decision. I fully stand behind it.”

One of the reasons de Randamie received so much criticism for her refusal to fight Cyborg was because at the time the Holm fight was booked, Cyborg was the obvious No. 1 contender, having long been considered the best 145-pound female fighter in the world.

De Randamie said she completely understands those criticisms. The only reason she accepted the opportunity against Holm in the first place, she said, was in hopes that she could parlay the 145-pound strap into a chance to avenge her 2013 loss to current UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes at 135 pounds.

“I wanted to fight Amanda Nunes because I lost fair and square to her,” de Randamie said. “She’s a great champion and I thought this would be my chance to fight Amanda.”

Nonetheless, after a long and troubled 17 months, de Randamie is focused on moving forward and picking up where she left off with her UFC career.

Despite her time away, she remains the No. 5 ranked fighter in the UFC’s official women’s bantamweight rankings. For her next step, she is eyeing a potential fight against Raquel Pennington, an opponent with whom she says she has a little bit of history.

“It goes a little bit back,” de Randamie. “In the past, a couple of fights dropped out and they needed an opponent [for her], and a couple of times I offered and for some reason I never got the fight. Let me say, first of all, I have the utmost respect for Raquel Pennington. In my eyes, she is a true warrior. I mean, look at her last fight — she battled. She really battled. And I think style-wise, we are a great matchup. I absolutely believe that. She comes to fight, and that’s what I like about her. She’s just coming off a title fight, I think we’re both in a good position to fight each other. I think it’s the right time to fight each other, and it would be an honor for me, absolutely an honor to fight with such a warrior as her.”

De Randamie promised that she feels “mentally and physically stronger” than she ever has before. She said she feels reinvigorated by her time off and wants to fight as soon as possible, regardless of whether she gets the Pennington matchup. She is currently walking around at 146 or 147 pounds and noted that a title fight is “absolutely not” in her concerns. Instead, she simply wants to get back into the Octagon and start having fun again.

“I’m not just fighting for me, I also fight for so many other people,” de Randamie said. “People who have been bullied. And my message is always to people: There are always going to be people who tell you that you cannot do it. There will always be.

“I have faced those people so many times in my life, even before I started doing MMA. A lot of people told me, ‘You will never make it, you can never do it.’ But I made it and I did it, and I’m still going to do it. So, if I get to share that, and maybe I can change one person’s mind, and they start to believe that they can do it and they will follow their dreams, I think my life and my mission is accomplished.”

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