It's been more than three years since Thiago Alves truly believes he stepped into a fight feeling at his very best.
Following a 2009 loss to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 100, Alves suffered a knee injury affecting his PCL (posterior cruciate ligament). Typically that kind of injury is treated with rest and rehab and not surgery, so Alves followed his doctor's advice and moved on with his fight career.
The problem was the nagging knee injury never completely healed, and it continued to haunt him in training camps as he got ready for other fights after the loss to St-Pierre.
Earlier this year, however, Alves suffered a whole other kind of injury when he tore his pectoral muscle. That did require surgery on his chest. It put Alves out of action for the biggest part of 2012, but on his way back from that surgery, he suffered another setback in training.
“I just went through another surgery. I had to do my PCL and my ACL on my left knee and I was excited to do that because it's an old injury; I've had it since 2009. After my fight with GSP and before I was supposed to fight Jon Fitch, when it got cancelled for the first time. Then I hurt it again like 10 days before the John Howard fight, and then the last time I was getting back in shape, I hurt it again in training against (Jorge) Masvidal. I kicked him in the back of the leg and I just felt something pop,” Alves told MMAWeekly.com on Tuesday.
“At this point, I knew the PCL was gone, but the ACL was damaged too. I could probably rehab it again, try to make it stronger, but at some point I would need to get surgery to make it better.”
The additional injury to his knee forced Alves to re-evaluate his plans for the rest of this year and heading into 2013.
“I already took half of the year off because of the chest surgery and I haven't been 100-percent since 2009 because of the knee. I've got a few years ahead, I'm still just 29, so we're going to do this right. That's why we decided to get everything done, get it out of the way. So I can come back at 100-percent,” said Alves.
Now that Alves has undergone the additional surgery to repair the damage to his knee, including the earlier PCL injury, he's on the road to recovery with a targeted return date in mid-2013.
“I'm shooting for June of next year, hopefully by the middle of the year I'll be ready to go. I'm thinking about four to five months of rehab, and three months to get in shape. So I'm shooting for June, July,” said Alves.
Since the loss to St-Pierre in 2009 and the subsequent knee injury, Alves has gone 2-3 in his last five fights. He doesn’t blame the losses on the injury, but it certainly didn’t help things much.
The time off will admittedly be rough on Alves, but he says it will give him time to not only rehab his knee, but get his mind right for his return to the Octagon next year.
“It makes you really put in perspective why you do what we do. Why do we start fighting? It's because I love the competition, I love the whole martial arts learning process, and becoming a better fighter. The time off, I've been reading a lot, I've been on the mats as much as I can, helping my teammates. So I'm getting technical in a lot of areas I was never able to do because I was always training for a fight,” Alves stated.
“It definitely makes me re-focus and find myself in a way that I know exactly what I'm capable of, what I should do, to become a world champion. I have all the tools. It's up to me now.”
When he returns next year, Alves promises not only a healthier and readier version, but also a much more dangerous fighter. He's not sitting around and doing nothing while he's waiting to come back.
Alves is drilling his ground game, working on his wrestling, and as always becoming a more dangerous and efficient striker. When the entire package comes together next year, Alves expects the best when he returns.
“It's going to be a very new, improved version of Thiago Alves. It's not just with the striking, it's with the wrestling and the jiu-jitsu, so I'm very excited to mix everything up and see how it goes,” said Alves.
“I know my fighting style's going to change a lot. I'm not going to be as cautious as I was the last few fights. I'm going for the kill more than ever now.”
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