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Thiago Santos gets emotional ahead of return from career-threatening injury

UFC, Thiago Santos

UFC light heavyweight contender Thiago Santos is set to return to the Octagon after what has been a lengthy 16-month layoff. Santos suffered career-threatening injuries in July 2019 in a fight against Jon Jones, and at that point, it wasn’t clear if he was ever going to be able to fight again.

Santos recently spoke about his road to recovery and how it has been a terribly difficult journey. Thankfully for him, his girlfriend, UFC bantamweight fighter Yana Kunitskaya, stuck by her side all along. Santos also revealed the impact Kunitskaya had on his recovery:

“When I started doing the first kicks, she was holding the gauntlet for me,” Santos said of his GF and his UFC return, via Ben Okamoto of ESPN. “I was still full of fear, my eyes watered with emotion to be doing it again, to be kicking. Pain, I didn’t feel. It was more fear, psychological. I was very moved because I thought I would not be able to do that anymore.”

Thiago Santos came extremely close to defeating Jones back in 2019–he lost via a split-decision victory after five round–but it came at quite a cost. The Brazilian fighter tore the ACL, MCL, PCL, and meniscus in his left knee. It was the type of injury that could have put an end to anyone’s career, and Santos admitted that this fear became very real to him:

“I couldn’t do anything alone. I needed help for everything,” the UFC fighter furthered. “I did wonder if I would ever be the same. Even when the doctor first told me he needed to operate, that was a thought that passed through my mind.

“And once I started to feel all the pain, and the difficulty of not being able to do anything alone, it popped into my mind now and then that I would never fight again.”

Santos will headline UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas on Saturday, as he takes on fellow Brazilian fighter in Glover Teixeira.