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UFC’s Josh Emmett details horrific orbital injuries, emergency surgery, after controversial TKO loss

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Last February, Josh Emmett was TKO’d in a bout mired with controversy, after Jeremy Stephens landed an illegal knee and dropped two vicious elbows to finish the fight.

The Team Alpha Male product was medically suspended for 180 days, but the injuries suffered during the fight — specifically the last two strikes — were far more severe than anticipated. The hospital in Orlando originally diagnosed him with “just” a tripod fracture after the bout, but according to Emmett, they missed several more serious injuries.

“I went home and I think it was the second day that I was home in Sacramento — I was still on all the pain pills and stuff — and my wife just knew there was something wrong,” Emmett said during the MMA Hour.

The featherweight got another CT scan from a hospital in Sacramento, and the results weren’t good.

“I needed emergency surgery. They took me in an ambulance to perform another surgery,” he said. “My lateral orbital was fractured, my orbital wall, my maxillary sinus — that’s like my cheek — it was completely encaved. I had my nasal bone fractured and my zygomatic arch was broken as well, with a few other fractures in the face. It was impinging the main muscle in my eye, which was disturbing the movement of my eye. Also, the nerve in my face was being compressed.

“So still even now from the left side [of my face] over, it’s still completely numb. I have no feeling in my cheek or upper lip and I had just suffered a severe concussion.”

Emmett says his doctors were very concerned and his situation could’ve been a lot worse.

“I had a team of doctors,” he said. “I had a plastic surgeon, I had an ear, nose and throat specialist, and I had an ophthalmologist — and just from the images that they saw, they were really concerned. Even breaking the bones on the orbital floor and the lateral orbital the bone could’ve punctured the eye or it could have been protruding, like popping out of my socket.

“When they saw me and they could see I could move my eye, they were pretty surprised. They kept telling me how lucky I was — that I could see, for one, and that I could control my eye without it popping out.”

Emmett says he doesn’t hold any ill will against Stephens, but at the same time he admitted having some frustration knowing that the referee could’ve called a break after the illegal knee. Regardless if the outcome remained the same, calling the foul meant the two elbows wouldn’t have landed, and the subsequent facial injuries wouldn’t have derailed his career.

That being said, despite emergency surgery, a week in the hospital, and a long recovery still ahead, the 33-year-old says his desire to compete never wavered. He hopes to start doing light movement drills starting this month, but still has no timetable for a return.

“I’m too close to where I want to be to give it all up,” he said. “I have a lot of things I can do. I have a lot of connections in the Sacramento area. I can go and get a good job right now, but this is my passion and I’m going to continue to fight as long as I can. This is definitely the worst injury that I’ve suffered, but there is no quit in me”

Fighting is never easy, but situations like these are a sobering reminder on the toll this all takes on their bodies and how much these athletes sacrifice for other people’s entertainment. It’s nice to hear that Emmett has a backup plan for when his MMA career is over, as many in the sport don’t have similar options.


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