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Pedro Munhoz details difficult recovery after Sean O’Malley eye poke: ‘We don’t think about it until it happens to you’

UFC 276: Munhoz v O’Malley
Pedro Munhoz
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Sean O’Malley poked Pedro Munhoz in the eye during their UFC 276 fight in July 2022 and caused a “very deep” cut in the cornea that left Munhoz unable to continue. Munhoz said it took three months for him to get medically cleared to train again, and now, just over nine months later, he finally returns Saturday to fight Chris Gutierrez at UFC Kansas City.

“I couldn’t get punched [around the eye] for three months,” Munhoz told MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca. “I had a cut in my cornea, a cut that was very deep. I saw it all blurry for two weeks, but it got better as time went by.”

By the time his vision began to improve, Munhoz knew he wouldn’t be getting an immediate rematch with O’Malley following their no-contest result, as the young prospect was already booked to face former UFC bantamweight champion Petr Yan. O’Malley ultimately defeated Yan via a close and controversial decision, and Munhoz sees him “in line for the belt.”

Meanwhile, Munhoz had to be patient and wait for his eye to heal.

“I kept going to an eye doctor and I knew there was no permanent damage to the retina,” Munhoz said. “I was really concerned [because] the retina wasn’t affected, but it was a cut so I was bothered a lot by water, sunlight, clarity and things like that. You can have surgery for shoulder and knee injuries, things like that, but eyes are kind of complicated. I know people in the boxing and MMA world that have lost their eyesight, so it’s something we don’t think about it until it happens to you.”

Munhoz is now 100-percent ready to reenter the cage for his 19th UFC appearance Saturday in Kansas City, and sees a lot of holes in Gutierrez’s game. Gutierrez is unbeaten in his past eight and 19-3-2 overall in MMA, capped off by a violent knockout over Frankie Edgar.

“We’ve seen tools we can use against him,” Munhoz said. “He doesn’t like the in-fight. He has great kicks, but he doesn’t box that much. The ground game, based on what I was able to see, is decent. He’s good technically, but I believe in my weapons, my experience, durability, and conditioning — and from having fought guys that are more dangerous in the UFC, let’s put it this way.”

“I always go for a stoppage because this sport has other influences, even the judges. My fight with Frankie Edgar was a good example of that. I’m ready to perform my best and finish this fight inside three rounds, but he’s very strategic and fights hard, so it could go down to the details and last three rounds. I’m ready for both options.”

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