by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
Fifteen months is a long time not to do what you love.
Stephan Bonnar was rolling for his fight with Matt Hamill at Ultimate Fight Night 13 when he heard the sound no professional athlete wants to hear: a loud pop.
He finished up practice, but when he got home, his leg was stiff and swollen. A subsequent MRI revealed a litany of injuries to his left knee; his lateral collateral ligament (LCL) and meniscus had been torn; there was ligament damage.
It wasn’t until September that Bonnar returned to the mats, and October when he trained at full speed. His last fight was a distant memory, against Eric Schafer at UFC 77.
“I was foaming at the teeth to get back to training,” he told MMAWeekly.com. “It sucked not being able to do it, but then again, being out of shape that first month sucked really bad. So made it through that, and by the second month, I was feeling pretty good.”
Bonnar made some adjustments to his mat and striking work, and is now getting kicked in his legs like every other fighter.
Still, 15 months will separate him from a real fight when he steps into the Octagon against Jon Jones at UFC 94. He cautions those expecting him to climb right back up the UFC’s light heavyweight ladder.
“I practice the motto: don’t expect nothing from anyone,” he says. “I’ll do what I always do, train my ass
of and do my best.”
Jones is perfect to play the part of spoiler. He’s aggressive, athletic, and takes big chances. Case in
point: his spinning back elbows in his UFC debut against Andre Gusmao.
“He’s got some long-ass arms, that’s for sure,” Bonnar says, noting he’s worked with a 6’9″, 89-inch reach fighter to work on getting inside.
But Jones is also untested against top-level competition.
“I’ve seen guys make up for that with athleticism, and that’s kind of what he’s going to do,” Bonnar says. “So, yeah, I think that will be my advantage. But I’ll do a good job making up for it. He’s gonna be game, he knows it’s a really big opportunity. He’s going to give me everything he’s got.”
If anything, Bonnar has learned to appreciate the process of getting ready for a fight, and its certain future.
“When it comes to fighting, you take that one fight at a time,” he says. “Never look past anyone. That’s really all that’s on my mind is getting a win over Jon Jones, and taking it from there.”