Jan Blachowicz never wants to pull out of a fight, but he had no choice but to delay his upcoming meeting with Aleksandar Rakic after a terrifying injury that left him without any feeling on one side of his body.
According to the ex-UFC light heavyweight champion, the issue occurred without any real provocation. The pain simply showed up in his neck one morning and progressively got worse throughout the day during training.
“I wake up [on] one of the Mondays, and I feel a pain in my neck,” Blachowicz explained to MMA Fighting. “I think maybe I just slept bad, and that’s why I felt the pain. In the gym, we did some drills, and I took one shot on my guard, and I felt a really hard pain in my neck, and I cannot feel my left hand and left side of my body.
“It was completely off, paralyzed. Then I think, it’s not a normal pain. It’s something worse. I go to the doctor, we do an MRI and I have something [a disc] in my neck that puts pressure on the nerve. That’s why I had this feeling that I could not feel my left side.”
The pain in his neck and temporary paralysis was a terrifying moment for Blachowicz.
“It was scary,” he said. “You don’t know what happened. You can’t move your left hand. It was a weird feeling for me. A new thing, a scary thing.”
After an initial examination combined with the results of the MRI, Blachowicz was injected with medicine to help relieve the pressure on his spine, which in turn returned all of the feeling to his extremities.
Blachowicz was thankful for the quick treatment. He was also thankful to avoid surgery on his neck because that would be a much more involved procedure, not to mention the time it would have kept him sidelined.
“The doctor said we’ll see after three weeks [if you need surgery],” Blachowicz recounted. “If rehabilitation helps, then we don’t need surgery. If it doesn’t help, we’re going to have to do some surgery, but I’m a lucky guy. No surgery, just rehabilitation and medicine.
“They gave me some medicine, they put in my neck some medicine, four weeks of rehabilitation and I was ready to start my training again for 100 percent. I can train with that but only light technique, no sparring sessions, nothing hard. Just pads, bags, bikes, running something like this nothing hard. Four weeks of easy training and after four weeks of rehabilitation, I’m back to the gym and I started doing sparring sessions and everything at 100 percent. Now I’m healthy. I don’t feel pain, I feel good.”
While the recovery from the problem with his neck allowed Blachowicz to back to training rather quickly, he still feels he made the right call by not fighting Rakic as scheduled in March, when they were expected to headline UFC Columbus.
At 38, Blachowicz has learned a lot over the years when it comes to pushing his body to the extreme. But with so much on the line every time he competes, he sees no need in setting foot in the octagon when he could be incredibly compromised.
“Maybe a couple of years, I would do everything to do this fight, but now, I’m a little bit older, a little bit smarter,” Blachowicz said. “I cannot do stuff like that. After my UFC career, there is still life to do, living with my son and stuff like this so now first of all, I have to be healthy and then I can fight.
“I will not risk my health to doing that. First of all, I need to be healthy and then I can do the fights.”
Thankfully, the medicine along with rehabilitation helped Blachowicz return to full health and now he’s back in training camp to prepare for his showdown with Rakic on May 14 instead.
“Everything is OK. I don’t have to worry about that [injury],” Blachowicz said. “I don’t have to think about this. I’m still going for rehabilitation just to keep it safe. I spar, I’m doing jiu-jitsu, wrestling, everything I can do right now.”