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Morning Report: Anthony Smith reveals he almost amputated a finger to keep fighting

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

In 1986, San Francisco 49ers legend Ronnie Lott amputated part of his pinky finger so he could continue with his NFL career instead of sitting out part of the season due to reconstructive surgery. The story quickly became legendary in sports as a sign of toughness and determination. And apparently Anthony Smith almost joined the club.

Smith has not fought since his comeback win over Alexander Gustafsson last June and much of that is due to an ongoing struggle to recover from a hand break. Speaking with Ariel Helwani yesterday, Smith detailed how he had two surgeries on his hand to repair a break he suffered in the Gustaffson bout but that even the surgeries were proving ineffective.

“I had two [surgeries],” Smith said. “The first one failed. I went into my six-week checkup after my first surgery and the plate was broken and the bone had shifted back again... So they went back in, they took the plate off, they drilled one hole in my femur, one in my shin, and they took out the spongy bone material they used for bone grafts in my hand and then they put another plate on the side of it instead of on top because there are so many large holes. So they put it on the side and then filled the holes with the spongy bone from my leg. So that was a rough one. Then I couldn’t close my hand for probably two months. My left hand.”

The inability to close one’s hand is a pretty major issue for a professional fighter, especially one who is known for their knockout power. Even months after his second surgery, Smith says he was still having issues with his hand caused by a significant build up of scar tissue. Ultimately, he was having so many problems that Smith says he was planning to go the Lott route to get past everything.

“I almost cut my finger off,” Smith continued. “We were going to amputate my pointer finger because all the scar tissue was grabbing onto the ligament and not allowing it to close and slide back and forth. So the idea was that if we amputated the finger and then screwed those ligaments to the bone after it healed, that I could still use the other three fingers and my thumb to grapple but there would still technically be a knuckle there so I could punch.”

In the end, Smith did not end up going through with the medieval medical plan. Instead, he says a physical therapist found a way to solve his issues that didn’t involve losing any appendages.

“Some crazy old lady did this different type of therapy where they attached electricity to my wrist and my forearm and moved it around and was able to catch the muscle that closes the hand and really, she just crushed through the scar tissue,” Smith explained. “So once she put electricity to it, it forced my hand closed - because the bone was still healing and by forcefully closing it, you’re putting a lot of tension on that break. I couldn’t close it myself because I didn’t have the strength, and as I’m not moving it, the scar tissue just continues to build and build and build so by attaching electricity to it, it’s essentially me closing my own hand without someone else doing it with all that tension on the break. So once we tore through all that scar tissue the first time, we just did that every single day until I was able to get the movement back in it and now it’s good...

“I was ready to go but my wife and the UFC wanted to explore other options first. So that crazy lady saved my finger for sure. I was ready just to say screw it all, I’m sick of this rehab stuff and scraping the scar tissue out of it and continually opening my hand up to get the scar tissue out. I was just ready to get back to fighting and cutting my finger off, at that time, was the fastest way.”

Fortunately it did not come to that and now “Lionheart” is ready to get back to business, with all of his digits in tow. Smith is set to return in April at UFC Lincoln where he will take on Glover Teixeira in the main event. Teixeira is currently on a three-fight winning streak in the division and a win for Smith may well put him back in the title conversation. And it’s safe to say he’s ready. Showing Helwani his fully closed fist, Smith made it clear he’s happy to be back.

“Look at that! I’ve got a fist now. Time to swing them things.”


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I take back anything negative I’ve ever said about Anthony Smith. He’s one tough dude.

Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.



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