Nik Lentz is preparing for his first fight back in nearly a year when he takes on Mike Grundy at UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Kattar. Although he is relatively an active fighter, Lentz needed some extra time away this year after suffering what could have very likely been a career-ending injury in his last fight against Arnold Allen at UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. dos Santos.
Lentz fought all three rounds against Allen, but he did so in an incapacitated manner. Lentz was dealt with two eye pokes in the fight with the second one being the most debilitating as his vision was dramatically altered. He went on to lose to Allen by way of unanimous decision, but the loss was least of his problems at that time.
Lentz detailed what happened to his eye before and after the fight in an interview with James Lynch of MMA News and the experience was harrowing to say the least.
“In my last fight, the fight was going well,” said Lentz. “In the second round, I got an eye poke and it kind of felt a little funny at first. My vision was a little blurry and stuff and then in the third round — ten seconds into the third round — I got poked really bad in the eye. I ended up having triple vision, so from that moment on, there was like four-and-a-half minutes left in the fight and I was fighting like three guys. I was just trying to hit the one in the middle, I guess. I didn’t work it out at the time because I don’t know. I’ve never had this happen, but in the fight, I was trying to close the eye but it turns out its really hard to close your eye when someone’s trying to punch at you. It just automatically opens.
“If I could keep the left eye closed, I could see one person. But the second that it opened, then I saw three people. So, it was kind of a crappy situation.”
Immediately after the conclusion of the fight, it became very apparent that his eye was severely damaged. Lentz said he could not see a few feet in front of him when he needed to take the steps down to exit the cage, which was just the first sign of a serious problem.
Lentz sought out a doctor that could help him with his eye issues, but the search alone was distressing as many could not find out what was going on with it. He eventually found the right doctor who was willing to do the much-needed surgery for Lentz, but it came with great risks.
“After the fight, I couldn’t even get out of the cage,” said Lentz. “I couldn’t see the steps. I couldn’t see anything. My vision didn’t return to normal for nine months after that until I had surgery. I had to see a series of doctors. No one could really figure out what the problem was because the eye itself had healed, but I still couldn’t see right. I still had terrible double vision and I went to specialists and specialists and specialists and finally, I found one.
“I got a pretty risky eye surgery and they told me that there was a high chance — it was kind of a depressing time because I went to the doctor and I was excited. I finally got a doctor that knew what they were doing [and] I thought everything was well and he pretty much straight-up said, ‘Hey, I might be able to help you, but there’s a greater chance than half that we could do surgery and nothing is going to happen and your eye is just not going to work right’. So, I got the surgery and if it had not fixed and I had not seen double, I would’ve had to remove the eye.”
Lentz concluded that if losing one eye was necessary, then he would move forward with that reality. Of course, this may have brought about the end of his mixed martial arts career, but Lentz was prepared for that to happen.
“Seeing with one eye is better than seeing double. And when they were both together, I had terrible double vision, so I couldn’t do anything. It was a scary nine months. There was a lot of times where this might have been it. This injury might have been my career. It might have been onto the next phase of life.”
Fortunately, the surgery went well and he saw his vision return to normal. Lentz now looks to snap a two-fight losing streak against the aforementioned Grundy when he returns on Jan. 16.
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