Following a torn ACL at the end of 2021, middleweight Norbert Novenyi Jr. spent all of 2022 on the shelf recovering, rehabbing, and returning to the form he had prior to the injury.
While the downtime did present some challenges, Novenyi is nonetheless in an upbeat mood as he looks to return to action in 2023.
“The first half of my 2022 was me recovering and doing my rehab, and the second half was trying to catch up from all the lost time,” Novenyi told MMAWeekly.com. “I’m lucky it was just four and a half months, but it was just hard work the whole time, but now we’re here getting ready for a fight. I can’t wait.”
While he maintains an upbeat attitude, spending the majority of his time in the gym for one thing or another was trying at times for Novenyi.
“I had a couple of times where I was asking myself what the hell was I doing here,” said Novenyi. “I’m at the gym 10 hours a day: I’d wake up, go to the gym, do my cardio, do my rehab, and then lift in the evening. And then when I could start doing technical work I did that, and then I could start sparring, rolling and all that stuff.
“Learning how to run again and all that stuff was definitely hard. But I learned that stuff is just pain, and you can push through it, and I came out better, a better fighter and better man in my opinion.”
Back healthy again, Novenyi (5-0) will have his first fight in over two years when he faces Andy Manzolo (26-9) in a 185-pound preliminary bout at Bellator 291 in Dublin, Ireland, on February 25.
“Andy Manzolo has had like 30 to 35 fights, and I’ve only had five fights, he’s a black belt in Judo and a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu, but I’ve got a solid wrestling background and wrestling beats Judo, and in Jiu-Jitsu I believe I’m at the black belt level as well,” Novenyi said.
“At the end of the day I feel I’m going to crunch him and get him out of there. I’m not taking anything away from him, and I’m not being cocky, but I know how much I’ve gotten, and I’m really, really, really confident in my stand-up skills.”
While Noveniyi is optimistic about where he’d like to take his career in 2023, it’s a cautious optimism that will have him approaching things as they come rather than looking too far ahead.
“Ideally in a perfect world I crunch him in the first round, then I recover, and try to get another fight in by the end of May/early June,” said Novenyi. “Then after that enjoy my summer and then end my year with another fight that would be the ideal, the perfect (scenario); and would win all the fights – I’ve got to make sure I say that – but that’s the goal.”