Corey Hill has signed on to make his cage comeback against Mike Dizak on Jan. 23 at a Raging Wolf event at the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel in Niagara, N.Y., the fighter and his camp confirmed to last week.

Hill, who suffered arguably the most gruesome MMA injury of 2008, said he is still under contract with the UFC, but has the promotion’s blessing to test the waters in a local-level show before making his way back to the Octagon. Hill did not compete on Nov. 20, as was advertised by a local Florida promotion.

“Obviously, with a comeback fight, we wanted to proceed carefully,” said Hill’s trainer and manager Rob Kahn, of the Gracie Tampa Academy.

Hill’s right tibia bone snapped near his ankle 10 seconds into the second round against Dale Hartt at UFC “Fight for the Troops” on Dec. 10 at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Hartt was checking Hill’s kick at the time. The 31-year-old Hill was rushed to a local hospital for treatment and overnight surgery.

Hill, a lightweight competitor on “The Ultimate Fighter 5,” was noted for his svelte 6-foot-4 frame on the series. Hill’s proportions later became the subject of much debate in the MMA community following his injury, as fans voiced their concern for the fighter competing again.

Hill, who trains at the Gracie Tampa Academy in Florida, never had any doubts though. He returned to the gym four months after the bout following a three-month rehabilitation.

“I still had a little bit swelling in my leg, so I was limping around and trying to spar standing against the wall,” said Hill. “I was giving my trainer, Rob Kahn, a heart attack.”

The fighter said pins and screws placed in his right leg to stabilize the break were removed last June. A rod remains in the leg.

Hill’s progress over the last year, which has included the introduction of jiu-jitsu training into the NJCAA All-American wrestler’s schedule, has been steady.

“Some days I’d come in and think, ‘I’m ready, I’m ready,’” said Hill. “On other days, something would happen and I’d realize I needed more time to learn. The more you learn, the more you earn.”

Hill said he spoke with a UFC representative in late October, and attended the promotion’s fighter informational meeting on Nov. 3 in Las Vegas. No timetable has been set for his Octagon return, he said.

“We decided that I didn’t just want to come back (to the UFC) to be back,” said Hill. “I wanted to come back and make an impact for the rest of my career. What six or nine more months?”

Foe the past year, Hill’s wife, a hairstylist at a local salon, has mostly supported the family of five, which includes an eight-year-old daughter and two sons, ages six and one. The UFC, which left an employee behind with Hill for his initial six-day hospital stay in North Carolina, also paid all of the fighter’s injury-related bills, said Hill.

Hill said the family also got creative in finding ways to entertain its children on a budget during the nation’s economic downturn.

“I’m the master of croquet now, and we go to the park a lot,” he said. “I’m lucky because I have someone waiting for me. Some people woke up and didn’t have jobs anymore.”

Kahn said the novice fighter’s enthusiasm for the sport sustained Hill through the tougher times.

“Based on how he’s smoking guys in training now,” said Kahn, “I’d say he’s recovered just fine.”

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