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Once scared of surgeries, Dhiego Lima finally healthy after fixing lingering neck injury ahead of UFC 258

Dhiego Lima defeated Luke Jumeau in his most recent octagon appearance in October 2019
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Dhiego Lima suffered a spinal injury more than a decade ago, and the pain is finally gone.

The 31-year-old welterweight competed in 22 professional MMA fights, plus five amateur bouts and a half-dozen exhibition contests on The Ultimate Fighter over the course of 15 years, and the neck problem was always there, a constant reminder of his high school football days.

On a three-fight winning streak in the octagon now, Lima felt the need to go under the knife, something he “should have done a long time ago,” and fix it after a training session that left him “crying in pain for two weeks.”

“I always trained and fought protecting my neck,” Lima said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I was always afraid of surgeries so I’d think ‘it’s all good, it’s all good.’ I’d only train wrestling once a week because I couldn’t train anything for the next three days because my neck would get stiff. People talked about surgeries and I would go, ‘Are you crazy? To open my neck and get in there?’ I was afraid of it [laughs].

“I was training for a fight with [Alex] Morono and a guy had me in a guillotine and I escaped, but my neck got all weird. The [C6] disc exploded and I had to have emergency surgery and put a platinum disc in there, and it’s brand new now. I got my movement back. It’s finally 100 percent. I’ve never felt so healthy going into a fight, and I can’t wait to brawl in there.”

Away from the cage since October 2019, when he beat Luke Jumeau in Australia, Lima faces Belal Muhammad in the preliminary portion of UFC 258 in Las Vegas this Saturday. He says that being able to train hard two days in a row was the best thing coming out of surgery.

That matchup was originally scheduled for Dec. 19, but Muhammad ended up testing positive for COVID-19. In fact, the virus will force Lima’s head coach Roan Carneiro out of his corner Saturday, but he’s still confident going into the biggest fight of his UFC career so far.

“It’s a tough fight, of course, but it’s an opportunity I couldn’t say no to,” Lima said of facing a ranked opponent. “He’s good everywhere but he’s not ‘wow’ in any area. You can’t make mistakes. He doesn’t go out to put on a show, he fights to win, so I know it will be an important fight for me to win and become ranked.”

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