Aleksandar Rakic is hoping for a speedy recovery and a chance to run it back with Jan Blachowicz.
In the main event of UFC Vegas 54, Rakic faced Blachowicz in a light heavyweight fight with title implications, and things were going well. After a competitive first round, he dominated the second with his wrestling and hoped to build on that momentum. Then, disaster struck as he blew out his knee while taking a backward step. The bout was stopped, and Blachowicz was awarded a TKO victory while Rakic was left with nothing more than a torn ACL.
After the bout, Rakic released a statement on his injury, saying he injured his knee in camp and would come back better than ever. Now back at home in Austria, the No. 6-ranked light heavyweight in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings spoke with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour about what happened in his training camp.
“I was in phenomenal shape,” Rakic said. “I’ve been working so hard for this, and I felt so good. The camp was pretty good, but three weeks before the fight, in one sparring session I exchanged with my sparring partner some calf kicks — because we knew Jan is good at that, so we got prepared — he hit me, I hit him, he hit me, I hit him, I hit him a little bit harder and I overextended my leg, and then I felt some weird things in my knee, but I didn’t pay attention.
“So I sparred with the first one three rounds, and I felt my knee a little bit, but I didn’t pay attention, and then in the fourth and fifth came a heavyweight, 265-pound wrestler to spar with me, and I felt the movement was not like it used to be. I didn’t feel stable on the knee. I threw some hands, some kicks, and I didn’t feel good. Then he shot, I defended, and the knee popped, but not like in the fight. So I told the coaches, ‘Let’s stop and see what happened.’
“We made an appointment right away with a physiotherapist, and he did tests, but everything was good – I only had pain. He treated the knee very good, and I stopped sparring for a couple of days, and I need to be honest, I felt much better. I felt that the knee was great, and on fight day I was thinking, ‘100 percent my knee is healthy.’ But today the doctor told me, if the ACL didn’t tear a little bit in camp, you cannot tear the ACL like that in the fight. There has to be some pre-injuries before.”
Rakic is set to undergo surgery on his knee this week, after which a more comprehensive timeline for his return can be established. But the Austrian fighter did said his doctor, who previously repaired the ACL in his left knee several years ago, suggested he could be back in the gym in as early as four months.
It’s an ambitious timeline, but one Rakic hopes to make work so he and Blachowicz can run it back, this time without injury.
“Today I had an appointment with the doc and in two days I’m going to go under [the] knife, have the surgery, and then going right back to rehab and to kick some asses out there and get my belt, because after Saturday I realized that I’m going to be the champion,” Rakic said. “Jan told me that after the fight and with all due respect, on that night he could only beat me like this. Nothing else.
“We have unfinished business. I want the rematch, because I don’t think Jan is happy about the win. I would not be happy if I win like that. What can I say, I waited for him so he can heal from his injury, so he needs to do me a favor and wait for me, then we’re going to see.”
Blachowicz does not appear to feel the same, though. After the bout, the former light heavyweight champion said that his body “was tougher” than Rakic’s and called for another shot at the 205-pound title next. And for his part, Rakic isn’t opposed to that. If Blachowicz can reclaim the belt and he gets to return to a title shot, that would be the best-case scenario.
“That would be my dream, because I felt him — he did a good job, he’s a great fighter,” Rakic said. “He caught me with some good calf kicks, I caught him too, I cut his eye with one jab, it was a great fight... I believe I’m the better man but I still need to prove it to the world and to him as well because of course he believes he’s the better man, and we can only find that out if we can fight again.”
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