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Julian Erosa Changed His Life Forever

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Back then, Erosa was fresh off a run to the semifinals on The Ultimate Fighter 22 and had just picked up his first UFC victory over Marcin Wrzosek on the season finale card. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was a win for the Seattle native and he was settling in for a long run in the big show.

That didn’t happen. Instead, Erosa was cut after a knockout loss to Teruto Ishihara, went 6-2 on the regional circuit, got another UFC deal courtesy of a 2018 win over Jamall Emmers, then got cut again after three straight Octagon losses. Then it was back to the regional circuit for what Erosa assumed was the rest of his career.

His manager, Jason House, thought otherwise.

“The UFC’s still not out of the question,” said House.

“Are you sure,” asked Erosa. “I’m 1-4 in the UFC.”

“I would never tell you something that I didn’t truly believe,” House countered, and Erosa got back to business, submitting AJ Bryant in less than a round in a CageSport bout in February.

“I just wanted to get back in the cage; not because I needed wins, but just because I truly love to fight. I truly love the process of it all and I wanted to fight.”

He was set to go for CageSport again in May when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Yet he stayed in shape, ready to go if needed.

“I keep myself in shape, I keep my weight down, I keep everything on point throughout the year, whether I have a fight or not, so I knew if the opportunity presented itself that I’d be ready to step up.”

On Tuesday, June 23, the opportunity presented itself. A return to the UFC to face unbeaten Sean Woodson. That was the good news. The bad news? The fight was in four days. That didn’t matter to Erosa, who put on the performance of a lifetime in submitting Woodson in the third round. It was 2015 all over again, and the 30-year-old was embraced by the MMA world following the Performance of the Night win.

“It’s crazy what 15 minutes can do for you,” Erosa said. “I went from being one of the laughingstocks of the UFC to being one of the most liked guys right now. Tuesday, I got the call and Saturday my life changed for the better, and I’m just amazingly blessed for that to happen.”

UFC Vegas 4: Julian Erosa locks a D’Arce Choke on Sean Woodson

UFC Vegas 4: Julian Erosa locks a D’Arce Choke on Sean Woodson

It was the fight game at its finest, when most of the time it can be so unforgiving. No one knows this better than Erosa, a 23-8 pro who can obviously fight, but who just didn’t get it done on the big stage until last Saturday night.

“This fight game can be so brutal,” Erosa said. “It’s been such a long and up and down road. And if you base everything off just how you do in the UFC, it can be a depressing sport to be in. But it’s never made me waver. I’ve always been headstrong about it and I knew that if I just kept working that somehow, some way, some day, I was gonna be acknowledged for all the hard work that I put in. All my training partners, all my coaches, my friends and family, they know the work that I put into this, but it’s all the other people that don’t get to see that other stuff. I’ve only wanted to have the opportunity to be able to showcase myself in the same kind of light that all my friends and family get to see, and all my training partners and coaches as well. This past Saturday I felt like I was able to do that, and I’m just so satisfied with how it turned out for myself.”

Towards the end of the first round against Woodson, it was clear that this was a different Julian Erosa at the APEX in Las Vegas. Woodson got off to a fast start, using his range and boxing ability beautifully as he tagged Erosa and marked his face up. But with each shot, Erosa had a look on his face that said, “You can’t hurt me and I will outlast you.” He was right, and on this night, the veteran was not going to be denied.

“There’s a little bit of a switch in my head and that happens sometimes, especially when I’m sparring,” he said. “Usually when we spar at Xtreme (Couture), we go about five or six rounds. Usually around the middle of the third round, I’ll start catching this switch where I feel like everybody’s starting to fade. I don’t like to fade and I never fade; I’ve always been really proud of my cardio and my conditioning and so I always try to be a pressure fighter and have the switch where I go from having fun to doing everything I can to not let this guy do what he wants. Sometimes in fights it’s taken me too long to do that and it’s too little too late or I didn’t do it and I got knocked out because I was being too relaxed in the beginning of the fight.”

Not on this night. In fact, Erosa was hitting on all cylinders mentally and physically while hitting pads in the locker room. 

UFC Vegas 4: Julian Erosa Post-Fight Interview

UFC Vegas 4: Julian Erosa Post-Fight Interview

“I’m thinking, ‘There’s nothing that this kid’s gonna do to me, he’s gonna have to put me out,’” Erosa recalled. “Nothing was gonna stop me from getting what I wanted that night.”

In round three, Erosa got what he wanted, with a D’Arce choke ending matters at the 2:44 mark. Erosa got his second UFC win and a fresh start. The internet did the rest, with Erosa getting praised by fans, media and his peers. It’s not the first time a veteran came back to the UFC and scored a big win, but this one resonated for some reason.

Why?

“Obviously, this pandemic is kind of a situational thing so there’s no other sports on TV so I’m getting more recognition because of that,” said Erosa.

Sorry, man, you’re just being humble. He laughs.

“I think I have a likable personality, but also maybe a likable fight style,” Erosa said. “The last fight showcased what I’m about. I’m willing to go to the end of the Earth to get what I want and put it all on the line, and a lot of other fighters can really respect that. When people see that kind of stuff, they get inspired.”

Now that’s the “Why.”  

Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov 1962-2020

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The father and coach of UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, Abdulmanap was an elite athlete in his own right, earning Master of Sports recognition in freestyle wrestling. Also proficient in judo sambo, Abdulmanap went into coaching after his career concluded, and his success garnered him the title of Honored Coach of Russia. That coaching excellence was evident by watching the dominant style of his son Khabib, but Abdulmanap also played a pivotal role in the lives of countless Russian fighters who made their way to the top mixed martial arts events around the globe, and his loss will be felt throughout the sporting world.

Unfiltered with Rose Namajunas and Marty Ray

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First, Rose Namajunas joins the guys to share how she’s dealing with recent family tragedies due to COVID-19, how her loss to Jessica Andrade is not in her head as she prepares for the rematch on July 11th, and she walks her cat (yes, you read that correctly Rose walks her cat on the show).
 
Then, singer Marty Ray makes his UFC Unfiltered debut. The guys discuss why he thinks fellow Arkansas native Bryce Mitchell is one of the most exciting fighters in the sport today, how Bruce Lee would have performed as a mixed martial artist in the UFC, Derrick Lewis walking out to one of Marty Ray’s songs and much more.
 
 
Follow the show @UFCunfiltered on Instagram, and check out the full video show on UFC FIGHT PASS – sign up today at www.ufcfightpass.com

Justin Jaynes Made His Dream Moment Happen

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That could mean any number of things, most of them bad, but in this case, a mix of pent-up exhaustion and a whirlwind of emotions over the previous few days meant that the 30-year-old had a tough time coming to grips with a spectacular UFC debut win over Frank Camacho the night before.

“I’m looking around, ‘Where am I,’ and I didn’t even go out and party afterwards,” he laughs. “I was so tired because we fought so early. I basically went and got my son for dinner, then I went out and had a couple beers and I think I was in bed by midnight. I woke up and I’m like, ‘No way this is happening.’ I look at my phone, 500 text messages, a thousand messages on Instagram, I’m like what the f**k just happened.”

What happened is that the veteran of more than seven years in the pro MMA game took a fight on the previous Wednesday night to replace Camacho’s previous opponent, Matt Frevola, got his medicals done on Thursday, weighed in Friday and then took just 41 seconds to beat Camacho at his own game.

UFC Vegas 3: Justin Jaynes def Camacho by TKO

UFC Vegas 3: Justin Jaynes def Camacho by TKO

“It’s a dream come true,” said the Michigan native. “I worked for this exact moment and I just wrote a storybook. To have a first-round knockout against a seven-fight (UFC) veteran like Frank Camacho in the UFC on short-notice, that just doesn’t happen. And to say that I’m tied with Charles Oliveira for the second fastest debut finish in lightweight history, my name’s in the books forever, and that’s really exciting.”

Jaynes brought the excitement for as long as the fight lasted, apparently intent on making sure that cardio wouldn’t be an issue by taking aim at Camacho and opening fire. And once he caught and hurt his foe, he got him out of there, a feather in his cap considering that a toe-to-toe brawl is right in the wheelhouse of “Frank the Crank.”

“He’s as tough as they come,” said Jaynes of Camacho. “I hit him as hard as I could as many times as I could before (referee) Herb (Dean) stopped it. That guy would not go down. That guy had so much heart and so much perseverance, he would have kept fighting if Herb didn’t stop it. He was like a brick building.”

But Jaynes was swinging a wrecking ball of a left hook, the exact punch he always figured he would end his UFC debut with.

“I’ve visualized this moment for years,” Jaynes said. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a professional wrestler. I always liked being under the lights, I always liked the pressure, I always liked the banter, and when I started doing MMA in 2007, I always wanted to be under the lights. And the funniest thing, you might not even believe this, but if you look through any of my highlights, it’s always the left hook. And when I land that, people just go to sleep.”

It’s one of those feel-good sports stories that are always welcome, especially in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and if anyone paid his dues to get his shot in the big show, it was Jaynes, who compiled a 15-4 record on the regional scene heading into the fight he had watched countless others get while he kept his nose to the grindstone.

“Lately especially there’s been a lot of low points and battling with a little bit of depression just because of it,” he said. “I have 20 pro fights and I see all these guys with less fights and with losses too. It’s not like they’re 8-0, 9-0, 10-0. We got 5-2, 6-3 and they’re getting a shot. I’m a seasoned vet and I started to take it personal after a while. Did I do something wrong? Am I too old? And I started questioning myself.”

Through it all, Jaynes kept working for his son and family, and kept getting the push from his Xtreme Couture coaches and teammates.

“I’ve got the best coaching staff that I could ever ask for,” he said. “They stay on top of me, they make sure I’m in training. Even when I don’t want to train, Andrew Jacob, my strength and conditioning coach, he’s calling me, ‘What are you eating?’ It’s not just me and I want everyone to know that. Yeah, I might have thrown the punches in there and knocked Frank out, but it was Andrew Jacob, Dennis Davis, Roman Isbell keeping me diligent and keeping me in the gym.”

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He laughs.

“It’s f**king hot in Vegas. It’s 150 degrees, I don’t want to go to the gym if I don’t have a fight coming up.”

But he went anyway, and when the call came, he was ready and he delivered. Now Justin Jaynes is a UFC fighter and ready for the next step after he serves a 45-day suspension due to a cut suffered from a clash of heads with Camacho.

“I’m gonna take the suspension, re-gather my thoughts, re-gather my goals,” he said. “Up to this point, when it comes to fighting, I’ve achieved everything I ever set out for as of right now. So I’m gonna ride this wave out, get back to training and I’m hoping to carry the momentum of this win into my next fight and knock somebody else out. Hopefully it’s (fellow prospect) Austin Hubbard.”

2020 Half-Year Awards: The Fighters

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There have been 16 UFC events thus far in 2020. I have no doubt in my mind that Gilbert Burns would have fought on every one of them if allowed. That’s the kind of competitor “Durinho” is, and while he might have been unknown to all but the hardcore fanbase entering the year, In a week’s time he could be a world champion if he can unseat Kamaru Usman in the main event of UFC 251. And how he got here was nothing short of remarkable, as he became the first man to stop Demian Maia since 2009 and then followed that stirring win with a shutout victory over former world champ Tyron Woodley. Now it’s a showdown with Usman on Fight Island. What a half-year.

Others receiving votes – Alex Perez, Aljamain Sterling, Angela Hill, Glover Teixeira, Dan Hooker, Valentina Shevchenko 

Voters – Jon Gagnon, Thomas Gerbasi, E. Spencer Kyte, Steve Latrell, Zac Pacleb, Gavin Porter

2020 Half-Year Awards: The Fights

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Everyone expected the UFC Vegas 4 main event between Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker to be an instant classic. Then the two lightweight contenders went and delivered one, fighting tooth and nail for 25 minutes, with Poirier emerging victorious via unanimous decision in a clear Fight of the Year candidate.

Scores were 48-47 twice and 48-46 for the No. 3-ranked Poirier, now 26-6 with 1 NC. The No. 5-ranked Hooker falls to 20-9.

Hooker took an early lead as he worked his kicks to Poirier’s legs and body. Midway through the round, Poirier was able to negate his opponent’s reach advantage by locking up and taking Hooker to the fence. Hooker didn’t stay there long, but once the two separated, a fight broke out, with both landing hard shots in the pocket. 

The two wasted no time getting back after it in round two, Hooker scoring with kicks and Poirier responding with punches until a brief stay against the fence. At close range, the two traded bombs, Poirier getting the better of it as he bloodied Hooker’s nose. Midway through the frame, the exchanges continued, Poirier now cutting Hooker over the right eye. Hooker returned the favor, neither backing down from the other. With under a minute left, Hooker rocked Poirier briefly, and as the round wore down, he poured it on, landing several shots until the horn intervened.

It was going to be hard to top the pace of the previous frame, but Hooker and Poirier did their best, each landing shots until a Hooker takedown attempt nearly led to a Poirier guillotine choke finish. Hooker fought his way free, though, and the two proceeded to then trade strikes on the mat. Poirier also looked for a submission from his back and when that came up empty, he made his way to his feet and landed two flush right hands that Hooker remarkably shook off.

Poirier’s southpaw jab was sharp in the early stages of round four, leading to a Hooker takedown. Poirier rose immediately, but Hooker stayed committed and put the Louisiana native twice more. After rising again, it was Poirier with the takedown, and he was able to keep the New Zealander grounded as he fired off a steady stream of strikes. With under two minutes left, Poirier locked up an armbar, but Hooker defended well and eventually pulled free with a little under a minute remaining. As the two rose, Poirier looked for a guillotine, but again, Hooker got loose just before the end of the frame.

With the fight possibly up for grabs, there was a lot on the line in the fifth round, with both trying to wisely pick their shots. Poirier appeared to be the fresher of the two, and after landing several flush punches, Hooker wisely sought out a takedown. Poirier didn’t stay grounded long, yet as they stood, Hooker kept looking to take the fight to the mat. Poirier was determined to stay upright, though, and when the two hit the deck late, it was Poirier with a bunch of punches to the face as the bout ended. If there was a crowd at the UFC Apex, there would have been a standing ovation. And a well-deserved one.

2020 Half-Year Awards: The Knockouts

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Former UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt snapped a three-fight losing streak in devastating fashion, knocking out Raphael Assuncao in the second round.

Garbrandt put together a disciplined, technical attack in the opening frame, with his kicks to Assuncao’s leg his main weapon as he piled up the points. Assuncao did get in his shots, though, an impressive feat given the gap in speed between the two.

The battle remained close in the second, but a flash knockdown scored by Garbrandt with a little over a minute left was probably going to get him the round before “No Love” made sure there would be no third frame, as a vicious right hand in the midst of an exchange ended the fight immediately at 4:59 of round two.

With the win, the No. 9-ranked Garbrandt moves to 12-3. The No. 5-ranked Assuncao falls to 27-8.

Others receiving votes – Herbert Burns-Nate Landwehr, Beneil Dariush-Drakkar Klose, Jan Blachowicz-Corey Anderson, Conor McGregor-Donald Cerrone

Voters – Jon Gagnon, Thomas Gerbasi, E. Spencer Kyte, Steve Latrell, Zac Pacleb, Gavin Porter

KEVIN RANDLEMAN NAMED TO 2020 UFC® HALL OF FAME CLASS

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“Kevin Randleman was one of the first real athletes in the early days of UFC,” UFC President Dana White said. “He was a two-time NCAA Division I National Champion and All-American wrestler at The Ohio State University. He was the fifth heavyweight champion in UFC history and one of the first athletes to successfully compete at both heavyweight and light heavyweight. He was a pioneer of the sport and it’s an honor to induct him into the UFC Hall of Fame Class of 2020.”

Randleman will enter the UFC Hall of Fame as the 17th member of the Pioneer Era wing. The Pioneers Era category includes athletes who turned professional before November 17, 2000 (when the unified rules of mixed martial arts were adopted), are a minimum age of 35, or have been retired for one year or more.

A veteran of 33 professional fights during his 15-year career, Randleman compiled a record of 17-16 (4-3, UFC), including wins over UFC Hall of Famer Maurice Smith, UFC®23: ULTIMATE JAPAN 2 middleweight tournament champion Kenichi Yamamoto and 2006 PRIDE FC world open-weight grand prix champion Mirko Cro Cop.

Randleman made his UFC debut on March 5, 1999 at UFC® 19: ULTIMATE YOUNG GUNS in Bay St. Louis, Missouri, defeating Maurice Smith via unanimous decision. His victory earned him an immediate title shot for the vacant UFC heavyweight title against future UFC Hall of Famer and three-time King of Pancrase champion Bas Rutten in the main event of UFC® 20: BATTLE FOR THE GOLD. Kevin entered the bout with a 7-2 record against the veteran Rutten, who stepped inside the Octagon® with a 26-4-1 record, having won 19 of his previous 20 fights (1 Draw).

UFC® 20: BATTLE FOR THE GOLD took place on May 7, 1999 in Birmingham, Alabama. As the fight began, Randleman immediately secured his first takedown. Kevin maintained top control while landing a barrage of punches that broke Rutten’s nose within the first five minutes, momentarily stopping the action for doctors to evaluate his condition. After Bas was deemed able to continue, Randleman immediately took Rutten back to the canvas, trading punches for 10 minutes, until referee John McCarthy halted action so doctors could address the heavy bleeding from Rutten’s nose. 

Rutten would spend the majority this event fighting and throwing punches from his back, which resulted in Bas landing numerous strikes to Randleman’s head. At the end of regulation, with no winner declared, both athletes advanced to fight for three additional three-minute overtime rounds. Randleman seemed to control two of three rounds, but following 21 minutes of action, Rutten was declared the winner via split decision. This split decision loss is still considered one of the most controversial decisions in UFC history.

Rutten would later vacate the title, giving Randleman a chance to compete for the vacant UFC heavyweight title against Pete Williams at UFC 23.  

Randleman had a personal interest in this matchup, as Williams had recently defeated Kevin’s friend, trainer and coach, future UFC Hall of Famer Mark Coleman, one year earlier at UFC® 17: REDEMPTION. Known as The Kick Heard Round the Worldthis fight was later inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame’s Fight Wing in 2016.

UFC®23: ULTIMATE JAPAN 2 took place on November 19, 1999 in Tokyo, Japan. At the beginning of the match, Randleman quickly advanced to the center of the Octagon, hitting Williams with several punches before securing his first takedown at the 10-second mark. Randleman controlled the action during the majority of the first round, until Williams rocked Kevin with a series of punches in the late frame. 

Randleman recovered for the start of the second round, taking Williams down repeatedly and controlling the pace of the action through the remaining four rounds. Kevin’s numerous takedowns proved to be the deciding factor to winning the fight via unanimous decision and becoming the fifth heavyweight champion in UFC history.

Next, Randleman would successfully defend his title by defeating Pedro Rizzo at UFC®26: ULTIMATE FIELD OF DREAMS, which took place on June 9, 2000 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. With his victory, he became just the second UFC heavyweight champion to make a successful title defense. Kevin took a four-month break before returning to action to face future UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture on November 17, 2000 as the main event of UFC®28: HIGH STAKESRandleman would lose the title to Couture, then split his last two fights before leaving the organization after defeating former Strikeforce® light heavyweight champion Renato Sobral at UFC®35: THROWDOWN. He would continue to compete at both light heavyweight and heavyweight in other promotions until retiring in 2011.

During his MMA career, Randleman was known for his power and speed, as he recorded nine knockout victories and nine first round stoppages. A world-class wrestler at all levels, he also secured the second-most takedowns (21) during the time frame in which he competed in UFC from 1999-2002 (Tito Ortiz, 29).

Throughout his MMA career, Randleman consistently competed against the best of the best, including 13 athletes that collectively captured 13 UFC, six King of Pancrase and three PRIDE FC championships, along with individual titles in Strikeforce® and World Extreme Cagefighting®, respectively. Randleman also used his combat sports notoriety to compete as a professional wrestler with domestic and international promotions from 2002-07. 

A native of Sandusky, Ohio, Randleman began wrestling in high school, compiling a record of 122-11 and capturing the Ohio state HS championship in 1989. He went on to wrestle at Ohio State University, where he was a three-time Big Ten and two-time NCAA Division I Champion in 1992-93. He passed away at the age of 44 in 2016 due to complications from pneumonia and is survived by his wife and four children.

Additional inductees into the UFC Hall of Fame class of 2020 will be announced in the coming weeks. 

To see a complete list of UFC athletes and fights enshrined in the UFC Hall of Fame, as well as details regarding the UFC Hall of Fame format, please visit UFCHOFFAQ. For additional information, please visit UFC.com.

2020 Half-Year Awards – The Submissions

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Now tied with Donald Cerrone for the most finishes in UFC history with 16, lightweight contender Charles Oliveira continued to impress in the main event at Ginasio Nilson Nelson on Saturday, extending his current winning streak to seven with a third-round submission of Kevin Lee.

Oliveira went airborne with several of his attacks in the early going, but once Lee started getting into his rhythm, the Brazilian took the fight to the mat and began working for a submission. Lee defended well and tried to scramble his way into a position of control, and he ultimately got there with a minute left. Yet while Lee was now on top, Oliveira kept seeking the finish. Lee did land some hard strikes in the closing 30 seconds, though, capping an interesting five minutes.

Lee’s striking was sharp as the second round began, but Oliveira kept marching forward with his own strikes, landing an uppercut that slowed the Michigan native down. With a little over three minutes left, Lee switched things up with a takedown, nearly getting caught in an armbar in the process. Lee got loose while Oliveira rose to his feet, but another Lee takedown followed. Able to slow things down from the top position, Lee stayed busy enough to avoid a restart, and he remained in control until the horn.

Using his striking to set up a takedown, Lee shot in to start the third round, but Oliveira locked in a guillotine choke. Lee tapped out 28 seconds into the frame, and while he later protested, the replays told the tale.

With the win, the No. 13-ranked Oliveira moves to 29-8 with 1 NC. The No. 8-ranked Lee, who missed weight for the bout at 158.5 pounds, falls to 18-6.

John Gunther Was One Of A Kind

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The Strong Style MMA product was picked by teammate Stipe Miocic and it was only minutes into the first episode before the eccentricity began pouring out of Gunther. Explaining to the housemates his background in alpaca shearing led to more questions, which led to Gunther imitating the animals and that was it. The ice was broken for the season. Pun intended, as swimming in frozen ponds was another hobby of Gunther’s.

Gunther’s home video played like a Naked and Afraid hopeful’s as he explained his life living inside a van, seasonally shearing alpacas, growing up homeschooled, urinating in bottles and much more. Questions about Gunther’s life began piling up.

While other kids were playing kickball and soccer, Gunther spent his childhood hanging around his Amish neighbors. Whether it was mowing with a push mower or stalking corn, Gunther developed quite a knack for manual labor.

Now 34, Gunther explains that his first knowledge of the UFC isn’t even a decade old. While most contestants on TUF 27 were binging every season their whole lives, Gunther was unaware the sport existed for most of his.

“I was super surprised that I made it on to the show,” Gunther recalls. “I feel like it takes like ten years to get good at something. I sometimes wish I would have had more time to master more things before I went on, but I can’t complain.”

The most popular member of the house went on to have a two-fight UFC career and was released from his contract after a loss to Davi Ramos as the UFC celebrated it’s 25th birthday at UFC Denver. A torn ACL resulted in not only his first professional loss but also a dropped contract.

Ever the optimist, Gunther took his loss as an opportunity to finally see the world. Or at least try to.

“I always wanted to drive to the Darien Gap and drive through that but I didn’t make it very far,” Gunther said.

Combining one of the most dangerous trips possible with a hunt for cheap dental work, Gunther actually encountered danger before even reaching Central America.

“I guess my tooth was infected so they were telling me I had to take some antibiotics and come back in a week or something so I just drove around Mexico for a week,” Gunther explained.

As Murphy’s Law would dictate, Gunther crashed his motorcycle on the way back to the dentist’s office. In an attempt to brace his fall with his hand, Gunther broke his hand and did what only John Gunther would do next.

“I stuck my hand out and it broke everywhere,” Gunther laughed. “I’m thinking, ‘Well I gotta get this stupid tooth fixed,’ so I went to the dentist anyway and they’re all concerned but they went on to work on my tooth.”

With concerns over his shattered hand and the state of his bike in a foreign country fresh in his mind, the alpaca shearer was quickly reminded his dental situation was nothing to forget about. Smoke, drills and foreign soil gave Gunther an experience even he was bewildered by.

“They were working on it forever and they called some other doctor and they were working on it forever, so there were definitely some problems. They brought over this thing to cauterize it and you could see, like, smoke coming out. It wasn’t good but it was super cheap,” Gunther explained with a laugh. “I’m not very confident that they were very good at what they were doing because they did a root canal and they were in there for like five hours and then they were like, ‘Come back tomorrow.’”

Ordering Gunther to stay yet another day for what seemed to be a simple dental procedure gave him a night to go to the hospital and get his hand looked at. A one day in and out for breaking his hand through the skin wasn’t exactly expected but John Gunther has made a life out of “the unexpected.”

Now in his second procedure of the day, Gunther still had the energy to try to explain to Spanish-speaking nurses and doctors that he had a fear of being put under. Despite his best efforts, he eventually found himself unconscious.

“I’m so nervous about getting knocked out,” Gunther explained. “I was like, ‘Can you just numb it on the hand?’ They were trying to explain to me that they don’t have the tool or something; I’m not sure, they didn’t speak that good of English. They stuck a needle in my arm to try and hit a nerve and then they started cutting and it did not work at all. I was just trying to grit through it. They must have saw it because eventually I remember waking up, so they must have knocked me out.”

For those of you keeping score, Gunther was days into the trip of a lifetime that some don’t make it back from and had managed to not only make it only one country south but also cost himself a hand and a tooth in the process.

A week in Mexico, three dentist appointments and an emergency surgery were nothing compared to the concern over what he was going to do in Mexico with no transportation. Gunther rigged his bike up to his wrist to help accelerate since he could no longer close his hand. It was a decision left for only the desperate and creative.

On his way to the dentist for the final visit, Gunther made the most unlikely of friends that would save him from the most dangerous, miserable motorcycle rides of anybody’s life. A Canadian truck driver looking for another English-speaking person to talk to just happened to be driving north, through Ohio. Not only was Gunther thankful for the life-saving drive back to the States, he was equally as enthusiastic to learn about the man along the way.

“The guy was pretty fascinating. He immigrated from Poland and his son is an actor,” Gunther said. “Another thing, I didn’t know anything about trucking but there are so many regulations and each state has their own weight limitations and stuff so he had to skirt around certain states and he’s got this app that tells him where certain states’ weigh stations are. I guess each axle has to have a different weight on it; I had no idea how complicated trucking was.”

Now back to alpaca shearing, Gunther is finally able to make a fist again and despite having to have his tooth fixed again in the US in the face of his best efforts, he’s winding down his shearing season and plotting his next move back to MMA. The nearly two-year layoff has been an unorthodox journey but Gunther has never tried to live a “normal” life.

COVID-19, injuries and his day job have led Gunther to get slightly out of shape, but any man who’s up for a trip through the Derian Gap is up for the uphill climb of another run at the UFC. Other dreams still dance around in his head: sailboats, Darien Gap, writing and other journeys, but at the forefront of his life is still fighting, and while the UFC is the top of the mountain for John Gunther, getting back in any cage will work for now.

Will we see Gunther on UFC FIGHT PASS in the near future? Will he be back in the UFC? Both questions remain a mystery but possibly not as big of a mystery as what he’ll be getting himself into between now and then.

For TUF and John Gunther’s UFC bouts, sign up for UFC FIGHT PASS TODAY!

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