Stephan Bonnar explains hospital meltdown, plans to get a ‘real job’ after spinal staph infection

The last time we saw Stephan Bonnar was during a troubling meltdown he went through at a Las Vegas hospital. The TUF 1 runner-up…

By: Milan Ordoñez | 2 years ago
Stephan Bonnar explains hospital meltdown, plans to get a ‘real job’ after spinal staph infection
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

The last time we saw Stephan Bonnar was during a troubling meltdown he went through at a Las Vegas hospital. The TUF 1 runner-up posted videos of himself during the incident, berating hospital staff and responding police officers.

Seeing the videos on their own makes it easy to cast judgment and form theories. What we all didn’t know were the severe health issues he was dealing with, stemming from the fractured vertebrae he sustained from a recent professional wrestling match.

The 44-year-old sat down with MMA Fighting this week to give an update on his condition since then. He went on to describe the hospital incident as a “breaking point” because he was in “so much pain” and “agony.”

“My condition pretty much deteriorated over the next couple of days. It was, like, four or five days to where I couldn’t get up, down, nothing. I couldn’t move. I was in so much pain,” Bonnar candidly told Steven Marrocco.

“It’s been ten days since the original injury and it’s way worse. I’m swollen everywhere and the pain’s worse, like, something’s wrong. That night, I went to the E.R. Had someone take me, and luckily… I was in such bad shape, they just pulled me in the wheelchair and went and took my blood.

“That’s all it took. They said, ‘Well, you have a really bad infection. They took some x-rays and sure enough, on each side of my spine where the fracture was, there was these abscesses filled with staph. My knee was really swollen, my elbow was really swollen.

“By the time they got me in a room, they were drained each one into three and it turned out it was just regular swelling in the knee and elbow. But in the back, I had a really bad staph infection. Right away, they said ‘OK, you’re gonna be here for about six to eight weeks.

“I’ve had a couple of staph infections before and each one was… One was (I was given) antibiotic IVs for a week, and that was in 2000. Another one on the Ultimate Fighter was just a couple of shots and a round of oral antibiotics for about a week. I just couldn’t believe, like, ‘Really? Six to eight weeks?’

“Man, I hope to God this infection’s clearing up. The fractured vertebrae is still really… I can’t put weight on this. I have this walker here I can get around on. I’ve been injured a lot, but man. Nothing like this.”

As for his hospital meltdown that went viral and drew mixed reactions of concern and disappointment, Bonnar says it’s something he regrets. But he also admitted feeling backed into a corner at the time.

“I was a bit of an asshole,” he said of his behavior. “I thought I was upset, obviously. But you could tell that I did not know what I had going on in my body. I knew I was in a lot of pain, but I had no idea I had a potentially life-threatening staph infection filling up in my blood.

“I was pissed off, and understandably so. I was in a ton of pain with serious injuries. And not only got thrown out of that emergency room, I kind of just really (got) treated like I wasn’t human.”

Bonnar says he lost more than 30 pounds during his hospital stay and continues to struggle to build an appetite. Moving forward, he has one goal in mind: “getting a real job.”

“Just to be able to walk again would make me really happy. Just to be able to do my morning yoga routine would really make me happy,” he said when asked if he intends to continue with his professional wrestling career.

“I’ve had my fill, I’ve been getting injured my whole life. Started fighting when I was 23 and had a good career and did (pro-wrestling) for about five years. I’ve had my fun. Been about 20 years of getting in there and entertaining, putting on a show, whether it be the MMA or the wrestling. I’m pretty satisfied.

“I’ve just got to be open to more jobs. I’m pretty good at sales, so I got a friend who’s gonna help me get set up in medical sales. That’s the goal.

“I would like to do something that has a good pay off, that doesn’t require any physical risks, really. After this one, man, I don’t wanna be hurt anymore. I’ll hopefully heal from this, but yeah. Definitely don’t wanna break anything. I’ve been pretty consistently getting injured my whole life. And I’m pretty sick of it.

“I’ve had ten surgeries, broken about 20 bones… well, 22 now. I’ve had enough, man. My body’s had it. When I retired from MMA, my body had had it.”

Bonnar, a UFC Hall-of-Famer, is deemed as one of the pioneers that helped catapult the sport to mainstream recognition, most notably through his Ultimate Fighter finale against Forrest Griffin. He ended his MMA career in 2014 with a record of 15-9.

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Milan Ordoñez
Milan Ordoñez

Milan Ordoñez has been covering combat sports since 2012 and has been part of the Bloody Elbow staff since 2016. He’s also competed in amateur mixed martial arts and submission grappling tournaments.

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