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Niko Price has shared the cage with some of the best welterweights the UFC has to offer, but for years he has been doing so with significant injuries.
The 12-fight UFC veteran has had his ups and downs in recent years, but despite coming off a win in his last outing, Price (15-5 MMA, 7-5 UFC) decided it was time to address a lingering knee injury. It’s a significant one that probably would have immediately sidelined most fighters, but one that Price competed with since 2018.
So, why take time away to fix the issue now?
“The level of competition I’m facing now,” Price recently told MMA Junkie. “We’re going up, man. Everybody they throw at me, they’re savages. They’re technical, they’re physical, mental – they’re all beasts in every aspect. I just had to take a step back, let my body become full again, so I can become the real Niko. Not like a half-ass Niko walking around (saying), ‘I’m the best, I’m the best,’ but I didn’t even have a full body. Now I got a full body, I’m ready to come out there to throw some real things at you.”
What exactly was wrong with Price? In his words, he was “missing a bunch of ligaments” in his knee.
“Three of the four,” Price explained. “ACL, LCL, MCL. I didn’t have those.”
The damage dates back to his fight camp for his UFC Fight Night 133 bout against Randy Brown in 2018. Price said he blew his ACL out in preparation for that fight, but he would go on to compete anyway. Price stopped Brown with vicious hammerfists from his back in the second round, earning a Performance of the Night bonus for the highlight-reel moment.
Despite the victory, Price caused further damage to his knee. However, that didn’t stop him from competing. In fact, he would go on to fight eight more times with mixed results before undergoing surgery following a win over Alex Oliveira in October.
“I’ve been knocking people out and everything with half power,” Price said. “Now, I have full power, I have full everything. I’m excited to see what I can do. The power on the side that was hurt is so much more.”
In August, Price hopes he will be cleared for competition. If all is good then, he will look to make his return to the cage before the end of 2022, and won’t be too picky about who he steps into the cage to face.
“I want ’em all,” Price said. “Everybody, bro. Half the dudes that beat me are like top five now, and they only beat me because I had a bad night.”