by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Photos courtesy Fairtex/Anil Melwani)
Imagine being trapped in a cell, unable to do the thing you most enjoy. Now imagine that cell is your own body, riddled with injuries, constantly holding you back regardless of progress you make to return to 100% health.
Such a scenario is a difficult one for anyone to fathom, but alas it’s been the world of MMA fighter Benji “Razor” Radach over the past three years. Once a promising middleweight prospect, Radach has suffered an unbelievable amount of physical setbacks starting with his last fight in June of 2004.
Now after finally healing and getting back into fighting form, Benji is set to return February 2nd as the new 185lb representative of Bas Rutten’s Los Angeles Anacondas as they take on the two-time defending IFL Champion Quad Cities Silverbacks in Huston, Texas.
Radach spoke to MMAWeekly shortly after a training session at Florida’s American Top Team facilities to discuss his long road back to fighting, being part of the IFL, and his individual match-up with IFL veteran Ryan McGivern.
MMAWeekly: First off Benji, for the newer fans that may not be familiar with everything you’ve gone through over the last three years, give us a rundown of what kept you away from the sport.
Benji Radach: It’s been a crazy road. The first thing, it actually started right before my last fight with Chris Leben [at Sportfight 4] about three years ago, I was bit by a brown recluse spider, it got infected, and I had about a golf ball sized hole in my calf. I was just getting over that when I took the fight with Leben, we went into the third round and I got caught with a left hook and it broke my jaw.
After that not much longer I had healed up from my jaw, which took about six months, and I was training to fight JT Taylor up at the Tacoma Dome [for X-Fighting Championships] with Tito Ortiz, Ivan Salaverry and Dennis Hallman. I was training with Ivan and afterwards I had this huge pain running through one side of my trap [trapezoid muscle] and down my back, so I went in and found out I had to have surgery because it was a herniated disk. It had broken off, was floating around and mashed up a bunch of nerves. So I woke up in the morning and couldn’t even flex my chest muscle in my right pec [pectoral] or my right tricep. I had to wait two months to have surgery due to my job and during that time I had lost the muscles down to the bone. I got surgery and took another six months or more to get through that or more actually.
I started rolling again, joined the ATT a year later, started getting in good shape and tore my meniscus in my knee. I hadn’t had an ACL in that knee since I was about 10 years old, so I decided to get both done at the same time. I went to LA, had the surgery and got a humungous staff infection in the knee. It was bad; they almost cut my leg off. I had to fight the infection for three months, I had a catheter in my arm that went all the way to my heart and had to have a nurse come in twice a day to deal with it. That was just last March or April when I had all that done. It’s kind of crazy where I’m at right now considering all the crazy stuff I’ve had happen to me.
MMAWeekly: At any point were you thinking you’d never get back into the ring?
Benji Radach: Definitely…I went back to the drawing board every time because they were all pretty bad injuries. I was kind of like, “Is this a sign that I shouldn’t be doing this sport? Is there something telling me that I need to do something else? Or is this something just something testing me to get stronger and something better is going to happen in the long run?” That’s the whole thing that kept me driving was that I felt that there was something bigger or better happening down the line.
MMAWeekly: It must feel good to return to be returning to action for the IFL. Tell us how you got involved with the promotion and ended up on Bas’ team.
Benji Radach: It feels great. Before it [the IFL] even became public Bas came to me and asked me to be on his team a long time ago when I was in Japan with him. I was cornering Aaron Riley [in PRIDE] and he told me about the IFL and asked me if I’d be on his time and I said, “Right on, definitely.” That was between injuries and things started happening [to me] again and so I wasn’t able to be on the team. [Recently] Mike Pyle took that fight with Showtime [EliteXC] and so a spot came open, Bas asked me, and of course I jumped on it.
MMAWeekly: Let’s talk about your individual fight scheduled to be against Ryan McGivern. What are your thoughts on that match-up?
Benji Radach: The way I look at it right now I’m definitely the underdog because I haven’t fought in so long. At the same time, I’m always a competitor, always throwing hard, will be in good shape and plan on throwing lots of punches. It just takes one to land, you know? A lot of my fights have been one-punch KO’s, so we’ll see. I know he’s a tough competitor, he just beat Matt Horwich and so I’ve got my hands full. I just hope it’s a good fight. Win or lose, I just hope it’s a good fight and I plan on giving it my all.
I plan on winning. I’m training really, really hard here at ATT; I trained up at Team Quest for a couple weeks with Ed Herman getting him ready for his fight coming up and trained with Chris Leben before he took off for his fight. I’m in really good shape and I’m excited to fight this fight. This guy’s a good wrestler, I’m a good wrestler, I’ve got some hard, heavy hands and I plan on landing some.
MMAWeekly: And what about the Anacondas? How do you feel about your team’s chances against the Silverbacks?
Benji Radach: I think it’s awesome, great, and we’re going to go in and show that we’re one of the top teams. I think it’s even better for me, having not fought in three years and here I am right in the mix against one of the toughest teams. I think it’s great for me as an individual and the team. [Chris] Horodecki has been proving himself over and over, I know what Jay Hieron can do, we have a great team. Pat Miletich has a great team too, he’s a great coach and they’re always ready to bang and throwdown, so I’m excited for it.
MMAWeekly: It’s got to feel good knowing that even throughout the whole injuries process that Bas and the IFL kept an eye out for you and brought you in when a spot opened.
Benji Radach: It’s been great that my name’s been thrown around, ever since I’ve been out my name’s always popping up here and there, I’m really fortunate for that. I get a chance to prove it now. Bas is a great friend of mine and I’m completely honored to be part of the team and honored he kept me in mind.
MMAWeekly: The sport has come a long way since the last time you fought. Especially with the IFL there’s a lot more structure now in activity. What are your thoughts on the set schedule the league has implemented?
Benji Radach: I like it because you know who/when you’re going to be fighting five months out. You can start training and visualizing everything in your head. I’m constantly thinking of who I know I’m already going to be fighting. I’m putting them in my head, going through situations in my brain and it’s really cool and I like that. I like the fact that I’m going to be training with Bas and learning stuff from him along with the ATT. Now that I’m on a salary I can bounce around a little bit and train at different things, it’s great.
I expect the IFL to get better and better. The sport’s blowing up as everyone knows and people may think that I’m just using the IFL as a stepping stone or whatever, but I think the IFL is going end up being one of the top dogs, if not “the” top dog in the sport and the money will fallow.
MMAWeekly: Thanks for your time Benji, is there anything you’d like to say as we head out?
Benji Radach: I have a ton of people that I have to thank: Ricardo Liborio and Dan Lambert at ATT…Matt Lindland and Team Quest…Shannon Knapp has been a huge help to me, she’s been supporting me, keeping my name up with the IFL and kept them informed of everything that was going on, she’s been a great friend, and the same with Bas…and of course Dennis Hallman, he’s been a great friend, a true friend throughout all of this.
I’m stoked, I just hope everyone’s as excited as I am and comes out, checks us out and watches me throwdown and go all three rounds guns blazing.