The Ultimate Fighter
This Saturday, welterweight contender Thiago Alves returns to the Octagon to face Jon Fitch in a highly-anticipated rematch that will move the winner closer to a shot at the 170-pound crown...
For UFC welterweight contender Thiago Alves, fighting is his life. It’s something he says comes naturally to him, like walking, or talking. Fighting makes him happy, it pays the bills and puts food on the table. He’s also very good at it. . He’s won 22 of his 27 fights, and challenged Georges St-Pierre for the championship in July of 2009.
This past March, Alves had to face a very grim thought – the possibility that his fighting career may be over. “Pitbull” was slated to take on Jon Fitch in a highly anticipated rematch. Since 2005 Alves has only lost to two men – St-Pierre and Fitch, and revenge was on his mind. He was ready to fight, but the doctors weren’t ready to give him that opportunity.
A pre-fight CT scan revealed a brain abnormality. Alves has an artery that’s swollen more than normal, and it was way too close to making contact with a vein. If they made contact it would cause bleeding in his brain. The fact that he is a fighter that takes shots to the head was an extra cause for concern for doctors. They said a 2005 CT scan was clean, and just like that the fight was off, and his career, his livelihood was, for the most part, over.
“I had no symptoms, was training for the big fight, ready for the big day, and just when I was that close the fight was off and I heard the words career ending,” Alves recalls. “When I found out that there was an abnormality it was a Wednesday. They didn’t confirm everything to me till Friday. Those were the two longest days of my life. It was a really (expletive) up situation.”
During that time Alves did a lot of thinking. He was frustrated, and he had a lot of questions that he couldn’t figure out answers to.
“It was surreal. I couldn’t believe it. I asked myself what did I do wrong? What am I gonna do if I can’t fight anymore?” Alves said. “But I knew from the bottom of my heart that I wasn’t done, that this couldn’t be it. The only thing I could do was pray and hope to get answers. I eventually calmed down and tried not to think as much, but finally we found out it wasn’t that bad. Thank God.”
What doctors found out after a few procedures, including an angiogram, was that Alves’ diagnosis was a brain malformation that developed before he was even born. He had lived, and fought with this his entire life. A closer comparison between his 2005 CT scan and his 2010 CT scan confirmed this wasn’t anything that developed as a result of any of his fights.
Alves was happy, but was still frustrated. Frustrated that he lost so much time in which he could’ve been fighting. Frustrated, more than anything, that this was a situation that was completely out of his hands.
“That was the worse part, that it wasn’t something I could control,” Alves said. “I’m usually good at making things happen, but in this case I couldn’t do anything but wait. I just wanted to move on with my life. I was happy that it was over, but I’m not completely relaxed from the situation.”
Alves says he’ll feel normal as soon as he gets in the Octagon on August 7th. His first fight back after an almost 13 month hiatus will be against Fitch. Even though the match has been cancelled twice, Alves is grateful that Dana White was so supportive during this tumultuous time and gave him the opportunity once again.
“It was pretty cool that Dana and the UFC management gave me the Fitch fight right away,” Alves says. “It showed me that all the work I put in, and my life, means a lot to them. I’m happy for this shot even though I’ve been out for more than a year. They put me back where I belong, at the top of the welterweight division.”
Now that Alves can put his health trouble on the backburner, he is focusing on Fitch (22-3) the man who stopped him in June of 2006, the man who has won 21 of his last 22 fights [the one loss was to St-Pierre] including his past four fights. Alves knows that a win brings him back to the front of the line for a shot at the champion.
The 26-year old Brazilian isn’t going to allow Fitch to get there before he does.
“It’s big. Especially after the last fight,” Alves said. “Now I get the chance to redeem myself. That’s what I’m looking forward to more than anything. Fitch is a tough guy who wants the same prize I do. I’m really prepared for him. He’s gonna pay for all the bull(expletive) that I’ve been through.”
Alves says he’s changed a lot since he last fought Fitch. Back then he was a 22-year old who didn’t quite absorb everything he was being taught at the gym. Now he’s a fighter who’s been through tough fights, a title shot, and the scary thought of never fighting again.
“I’ve gone through a lot of phases since then,” Alves said. “I’m more mature. I’m a professional fighter, not a rapper or movie star, and now I know the right things that I have to do. I actually became a student of the game. Fighting has always come easy for me, but I became more passionate about learning the fighting aspect. I have paid attention, worked harder than ever, and it’s paying off. It will show.”
Alves has a few predictions for this fight. He says there will be no ring rust. He also says he will win by knockout, and it will definitely be an entertaining fight. He also comes with a newfound revelation. His experience in March opened up his eyes like never before.
“This has made me appreciate things much, much more,” Alves said. “I appreciate everything that I have. This showed me that at any moment everything can be taken away. It’s taught me that I have to be happy. If you’re not happy with what you’re doing then don’t do it because it’s not worth it. Now I do what I have to do to make sure I’m happy. It’s made me see life in a whole different way. And I could say that I’m happy.”