Remember TJ Grant?? The last time we saw the Canadian lightweight in the octagon was when he knocked out UFC veteran Gray “The Bully” Maynard in May of 2013. Grant was then scheduled to meet Benson Henderson at UFC 164 for the lightweight championship.
However, he had the chance of a lifetime taken away from him when he suffered a concussion and had to pull out of the fight. Now suffering from post-concussion syndromes, the former 155-pound contender hasn’t fought in 16 months. Grant spoke with MMAJunkie.com about his struggles:
“It’s definitely difficult. The whole year’s been difficult. Being a professional fighter, you need to be at another level and I’m optimistic going forward that I’ll get better.”
The injury bug has struck the UFC time and time again over the last few years and has caused many big fights to be scrapped all together. Grant’s injury is very different from others though. Mental injuries and brain injuries are very serious in today’s world especially in combat sports. Being a fighter, he could suffer brain damage as part of his job, and that’s why Grant is playing it safe and making sure he is 100 percent upon his return:
“I could fight tomorrow – I just know it wouldn’t be good for my long-term health. Physically, I can do everything I need to, it’s just my brain. I want to make sure that’s OK, because it’s a lot more important than the other stuff. I know I can fight. I just want to be smart about it.”
When Grant suffered his injury, he was the No. 1 contender in the lightweight division. However, since then the lightweight division has changed immensely. For one, there is a new champion, Anthony “Showtime” Pettis. There is also a myriad of new contenders and the division is as competitive as ever. That’s why Grant believes he’ll have some work to do to get back to the top of the ranks:
“At this point I know it’s just not realistic for me to ask for a title shot. There’s so many guys that have been fighting in the lightweight division and have found success lately. I accept that. I believe in myself and I’ve got to go back and just start working my way up. No matter what happens, I still won my last five fights and I knocked out the last two guys.
The UFC likes that when guys come in and do their job and bring the fight. That’s really all I can control is my performances. There’s no easy fights and no tune-up fights. So whether I fight the world champion or I fight another guy, they’re all dangerous.”
So when will the Canadian be back? One thing is for sure, Grant will be smart and not move too fast:
“There’s no timetable. I can work out at high intensity, I just don’t spar and stuff like that. We’ll see what happens. I’m just doing what I can and not getting too far away from the sport. Still somehow stay involved in it, watch it and keep my body in good shape. That’s really all I can do.”
It’s hard to think that the lightweight division can get any more talented and any more exciting, but Grant has the ability to do just that. If he can return healthy and get back to his old form, there is no question we could have another contender waiting in the wings. Will he ever regain his coveted title shot?