UFC Hall of Famer Stephan Bonnar said a series of frenzied selfie videos posted over the weekend were his attempt to document and protect himself after being denied hospital treatment because of his stance on COVID-19 vaccinations.
Bonnar, 44, told MMA Fighting he went to the emergency room seeking pain medication for a broken vertebrae in his back and an injured wrist he sustained two weeks ago in a pro wrestling match. After revealing that he wasn’t vaccinated, he said he was forced to wait for hours because the emergency room doctor had prioritized COVID-19 patients. When he demanded treatment, he said he was confronted by hospital security.
When MMA Fighting reached him this past Tuesday, Bonnar was bedridden in agonizing pain. Grimacing on several occasions, he said he was waiting for friends to deliver Kratom, a legal herbal pain reliever the FDA has warned can produce adverse health-endangering effects and cause many of the dependency issues seen in legal opiates.
To solve the issue, Bonnar said he needed “a script of Oxys or something, or Vicodin, or Percocet.”
Bonnar said he agreed to leave the hospital after his confrontation with the doctor, but became angry when a security guard pushed him from the back, causing him to fall to the floor. He admitted to swinging a crutch at guards after falling and then ducked into a bathroom to film the videos he later posted on Instagram.
A request for comment to the administration office of Henderson Hospital in Henderson, Nev., was acknowledged but declined due to medical privacy laws. Bonnar said on the videos he was in the process of being arrested, but he clarified on Tuesday that police let him leave after briefly questioning him. A public records request with Henderson police is pending.
Bonnar’s hope that the videos would draw attention to his plight backfired when he said he was locked out of his Instagram account. He accused the social media platform of trying to silence him and said he would forward several additional videos to prove his case.
For several months, Bonnar said he has been taking 30 mg oxycodone daily in addition to tramadol, Kratom and marijuana to deal with chronic pain. But he reacted angrily when asked if his issues were the result of any possible issues with opiate addiction.
“Are you f*cking kidding me? Let me f*cking fracture your lumbar vertebrae and see how you feel two weeks later, and also break your wrist, and also f*ck your shoulder up and you’re crutching around on it,” he said. “Like, c’mon man. Really, I’m being honest here. ‘Do you have a problem?’ F*ck you. That’s what I’m talking about.”
The daily medications have treated an arthritic knee that’s required five surgeries, an arthritic hip and a neck injury, Bonnar said. UFC President Dana White once told him he had broken former middleweight champ Rich Franklin’s record for most surgeries.
All of the medications he had in the house were used trying to treat the pro wrestling injuries, he said. So he went to the emergency room after a pharmacy wouldn’t fill a prescription for hydrocodone and tramadol that his longtime doctor had written him.
“Instead of trying to hide from the [emergency room doctor] that I’m taking anything, or score an illegal opiate, I’m trying to go by the book and do everything legal,” Bonnar said. “You don’t think — it’s Vegas, man — if I wanted some heroin, I could score some? Dude, I’m trying not to do that. I’m trying to go by the book, and I’m striking out, and no one’s been helping.”
The videos Bonnar posted were met by immediate concern from many in the MMA community including numerous former UFC fighters. Several volunteered to help, but Bonnar scoffed at those who reached out because they were concerned about his opiate use.
“‘I’m worried about you,’” he said of his colleagues’ reaction to the video. “Well, that’s not too helpful right now. If you think you’re my friend, and you think sitting there worried about me because you think I have a drug problem is going to fix it, f*ck off.
“Everyone can help me in a different way. You give them a few things, and they go, ‘No, but I can give you a ride.’ Well, I don’t need a ride now. [They say,] ‘Well, you’re an asshole.’ Well, f*ck off.”
Reaching out to his longtime promoter was also not an option for Bonnar, who said he was “blacklisted” after a positive drug test following a loss to Anderson Silva in 2012 and a subsequent Bellator fight against Tito Ortiz.
“They know about this,” he said of the UFC. “If they wanted to help me, they could easily help me. I’m not going to go, ‘Hey man, can you throw me a bone.’ I don’t need a bone. I need one doctor’s office visit and someone who will work with me and a pharmacist.”
As he sat shirtless and unshaven on his couch, Bonnar said he was being persecuted for his anti-vaccine beliefs. He said until recently, his life had taken a turn for the better.
“The day before I went to the ER, I got a little message from God,” he said. “You don’t have to be religious and think I’m a quack or anything, I don’t care about that. But he sent me a message, and you know what the message was? He goes, ‘Tell the truth for 24 hours. It’s an experiment in truth. One day, tell the truth.’
“I’m like, OK, I can do that. And that’s literally exactly what I did, and here’s where I’m at. It’s been a nightmare. And you know why — the truth goes against the narrative.”
That narrative, he said, is that he’s a former alcoholic — or perhaps a drug addict — looking for a buzz. The truth, as he saw it, was that he had to post the videos to keep himself out of jail as he sought help from a backward healthcare system.
“People abuse opiates, so [people] automatically assume anyone in there is faking the pain and milking it for sympathy so they can get some,” he said. “Well, that’s not me. I don’t know if you’ve seen me fight all those years? Have I ever look like a p*ssy, faking stuff? I don’t think so.”