TORONTO – UFC lightweight contender T.J. Grant has been forced to turn down two title fights in a four-month span due to injury, a situation with which company president Dana White can sympathize.
Grant (21-5 MMA, 8-3 UFC) was originally scheduled to face former 155-pound titleholder Benson Henderson in the main event of last month’s UFC 164 event, however, a concussion suffered in training forced the Canadian out of the bout.
Similar to another famous athlete from his hometown of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, named Sidney Crosby, Grant has dealt with lingering post-concussion syndromes in the fallout of the initial injury, which forced him to pass over a December matchup with newly crowned champion Anthony Pettis.
After a streak of five-straight victories in the lightweight division that earned Grant a No. 1 contender position, the injury occurred and now there is no certainty he will still get a crack at the belt upon recovery.
Similar situations have occurred past with mixed results. Whether do to injury or circumstance, other competitors have had to pass on a promised title chance. Some fighters find their way back to the title while others are unable to reclaim their former status. White recognizes the uncertainty of the position, and while he knows injuries are a part of the sport, he reminds Grant that if he takes the proper steps in getting back to 100 percent, there will be nothing to worry about.
“It’s one of those unfortunate things that can happen in a contact sport.” White told MMAjunkie.com at today’s pre-UFC 165 media event in Toronto. “We’re not going anywhere. Kid’s just got to take his time, heal up, relax and we’ll see what happens. Carlos Condit went through this. Chuck Liddell went through this at one point. This happens.”
Even though Grant may be incredibly upset watching first Anthony Pettis and now Josh Thomson take his place in championship fights thousands would give anything to compete in, White believes the fighter needs to recognize that health come first and there have been previous situations far more devastating than his own.
“These things happen,” White said. “Bad things happen like this. It’s part of the sport. There’s nothing you can do about it. I’m sure he’s really upset about it and it’s driving him crazy. Dominick Cruz did that season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ against Urijah Faber and was supposed to fight on the Anderson Silva-Chael Sonnen II (card) and get a piece of pay-per-view. That kid lost his lottery ticket.”
When it comes down to it, MMA is a highly unpredictable sport where anything can happen at any time, be it in an actual fight or in training. Sometimes that unpredictable nature brings along injuries, but fighters can be negatively impacted by attempting to return to competition too soon. Grant’s concussion is a perfect example of an injury that requires proper healing.
White is aware of the hardships the 30-year-old has gone through in trying to get back to top form, however, he is adamant that Grant rushing back would be a mistake because regardless of what happens in the lightweight division, the belt isn’t going anywhere, and it’s still within his grasp.
“Going in and pushing yourself and saying, ‘You know what, I don’t want to miss this opportunity, so I’m going to hurt myself to do it,’ it’s ridiculous,” White said. “We’re not going anywhere. The belt’s going to be there. No matter who has the belt, it will be there, and we’ll figure the T.J. Grant thing out when T.J. Grant is healthy.”
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