Frank Camacho recounts movie-like ‘Final Destination’ car pileup that caused UFC 263 withdrawal

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A loud screech was the only thing that forewarned UFC lightweight Frank Camacho and coach Cuki Alvarez of the oncoming impact, but a millisecond of advanced notice wasn’t enough time to avoid the truck that plowed into the side of their ’96 Toyota Tacoma as they traveled along the Los Angeles road.

The impact was a rude interruption to a long-overdue reunion and life catch-up between a fighter and his coach. While everything happened so quickly, Camacho remembers it as if it was a slow-motion video he was required to do tape-study on until it was ingrained in his memory.

“I trip out because it was f*cking crazy,” Camacho recently told MMA Junkie. “It was like (a cross between) Final Destination and Fast and Furious kind of shi*t.”

The scene that followed the initial car collision was even more unreal. According to Camacho, the truck nailed the metal road divider, went airborne, and flew over the hood of their car before it landed on top of a nearby Ferrari and collateral follow-up collisions ensued.

“It was just chaos,” Camacho said. “We were in the inner lane in the carpool lane. The five or four lanes to the right of us, it just started f*cking pinball machine-style of cars just like, ‘Bam, bam,’ cars spinning, metal flying, smoke. F*ck there was dust. I was like, ‘Holy sh*t.'”

Guam’s Camacho is used to slow streets and an easy-going way of life on his home island, so going highway speeds in the United States is not something he’s used to. Whether it was chance, skill, or some combination of the two, Camacho maneuvered the vehicle into an open gap, that freed them from the chaos.

“This was all happening and then somehow some way we just drove through like a little opening (or) a little hole and we got out of the hole, that whole mess,” Camacho said. “Mind you, this wasn’t happening in our rear in my rearview mirror. It was happening in front of us as we were drifting because we got swiped by that big-ass truck. That’s why I’m just super, super grateful, you know? (I’m) super grateful for, sh*t – that I could even freaking tell the story to you, you know?”

frank camacho car crash update
frank camacho car crash update

Initially, Camacho attempted to pull over immediately. But just like he does inside the cage, Camacho followed the instruction of his coach when Alvarez suggested they drive further away from the scene to avoid any potential additional damage.

A quarter-mile down the road, Camacho pulled over and was quickly overcome by a strange wave of raw, mixed emotions – especially considering the deep life conversations on the drive that preceded the accident.

“I just remember I was shaking and then I just started like everything was settling and I just started bawling,” Camacho said. “It was so weird. It just started coming out. The crazy thing was that Cuki and I were just talking about how we haven’t even seen each other for a year because of COVID. We were just talking about family and catching up and my wife and my baby girl. My three-month-old baby girl were on were on their way to Hawaii, coming up to San Diego so that they can go to the fight in Arizona. I just was crying and then Cuki was just embracing me. He was like, ‘Hey, Crank, Crank, it’s alright, man. We made it safe. We’re good.'”

The accident put things in perspective. Blessed to walk away from the incident only minority scathed, Camacho was – and still is – stunned by how close he estimates he was to death.

“We were like millimeters in milliseconds from a decision away to where maybe my three-month-old baby Catalina could have grown up not knowing her daddy,” Camacho said. “I can’t imagine that she could have potentially learned about her dad from her five-year-old and three-year-old brothers and from her mom and from everyone else. She wouldn’t have been able to like, know me.

“This is some real f*cking life sh*t. Yeah. I was like, ‘Woah.’ She was just coming out to watch Daddy in one of his biggest fights. It was an amazing pay-per-view (and) to see him scrap in front of I don’t know how many people in one of his biggest fights. She could have been coming to see Daddy in a box, you know?”

The motor vehicle pile-up occurred days prior to his scheduled return fight, which was supposed to take place vs. Matt Frevola at UFC 263. Camacho withdrew due to a neck injury suffered in the crash, while coach Alvarez walked away with only a few scratches.

Taken to a local hospital following the incident, Camacho is unsure of how the others involved in the accident made out. Upon arrival in the emergency room, he was particularly touched by a message from Frevola and a phone call from UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby. Camacho had never spoken 1-on-1 with the matchmaker as negotiations had solely occurred between Shelby and Camacho’s manager Jason House, so he was nervous to pick up.

However, Camacho said Shelby voiced genuine concern for his well-being, which alleviated any pressure of a rushed recovery – an attitude Camacho carries with him as he undergoes physical therapy with no set timeline for his return, at the moment.

“(I have) no broken bones, no bleeding in the head, just some neck issues,” Camacho said. “This can heal. I can heal.”

As someone who has struggled with fully buying into certain aspects of religion, Camacho can’t help but think some higher power was involved in his escape from danger. With a new appreciation for life, he encourages his fans, followers, and anyone who comes across his story to count their blessings.

“Just take the time to just go to your contact list and f*cking call someone and just tell them that you care about them,” Camacho said. “Your next commute to the store, knock on wood or whatever, but f*ck anything can really happen, man. Just cherish these, these moments. Give your parents a call, give a friend a call just to kind of just check up and say what’s up. You just never know.”