UFC champion kept injury secret for years

Before winning gold, UFC champion Alexa Grasso nearly had her career run off the rails.

By: Lucas Rezende | 4 months ago
UFC champion kept injury secret for years
IMAGO/Zuma Wire: UFC champion Alexa Grasso won the title in March 2023.

The current UFC women’s flyweight champion shared a dark secret in a recent interview. Having defeated the division’s longest reigning title holder in Valentina Shevchenko, Alexa Grasso looks to be experiencing the best moment of her entire MMA career, but things did not look so bright just two years ago.

A torn ACL could have ended Alexa Grasso’s career

While talking to UFC Espanol (Transcribed by MMA Junkie), the UFC champion revealed how a torn ACL suffered in the middle of her fight against Maycee Barber, in February 2021, came close to putting an end to her career. Though Grasso was able to endure it and even win the fight at the time, the Mexican fighter knew something was wrong.

In fact, Grasso thought the knee injury was so serious it could even put an end to her entire MMA career.

“This is something that I’ve never spoken about because it would hurt me and I thought I was never going to be the same fighter,” Grasso said. “In the third round against Maycee Barber, like around two minutes in, we had a weird movement and my knee stayed stuck on the canvas and I heard a pop. I was like, ‘Oh, something is wrong,’ and obviously it was my worst round.

“I couldn’t move the same. And when I walked on it, it felt like when your sandal is wet and your foot slides away. I thought, ‘This can’t be happening. I’m winning the fight.’ I wanted to throw myself on the ground and just say no more, it’s over. I tried to fight with my back against the fence as much as I could. I gave it the best of me and I won the fight.”

The UFC champion chose to stay quiet about the injury

Once Alexa Grasso underwent surgery to fix her torn ligament, she was glad to learn that she could resume her career with a healthy amount of recuperation. Over a year after her fight with Barber, Grasso returned to defeat Joanne Wood via first round submission, and took a five round decision over Viviane Araujo just six months later. Despite a successful rehab, Grasso still felt the need to keep her injury a secret, so opponents wouldn’t key in on it.

“After that, the following week I got surgery,” Grasso said. “I said, ‘I need to get this done right away.’ I also didn’t want to speak a lot about it because when you have an injury that bad, then your opponents just want to target your knee, obviously. That’s why I stayed quiet and said nothing.

“I did rehab, and also got the opportunity to do commentary (for UFC Español) at a time that I was really low. I thought, ‘Let’s see if I’m going to be the same as before. If my footwork is going to be the same. It hurt terribly. A torn ACL is the worst, the nightmare of any athlete. But I did my rehab, I did more than I needed to come back better, I recover, and two years later I’m champion and that fills me with pride.

“I no longer think of the surgery, and it no longer hurts. I sometimes remember, ‘Oh yeah, I have a graft,’ but that’s in the past, and it’s part of the process. It’s something we run the risk of whenever we fight.”

Alexa Grasso has no title defense booked

Alexa Grasso (16-3) is currently on a five-fight winning streak in the Octagon, with wins over Kim Ji-Yeon, Maycee Barber, Joanne Wood, Viviane Araujo and Valentina Shevchenko. The 29-year-old’ last loss dates back to September 2019, when she dropped a majority decision to another former UFC champion in Carla Esparza.

Though a immediate rematch between Grasso and Shevchenko has been rumored, no announcements or confirmations have been released by the promotion or any news outlets yet.

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About the author
Lucas Rezende
Lucas Rezende

Lucas Rezende is a Brazilian journalist and writer from Belem, Para. He has been covering MMA since 2012 and contributing with Bloody Elbow since March 2015. When not writing, Lucas also teaches English. In his free time, he enjoys reading, slapping the bass guitar and traveling.

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