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Mark O. Madsen’s Greatest Comeback

From Olympics To The Octagon, Mark O. Madsen Has Never Faced More Adversity Than He Has In The Last 17-Months.

This weekend, Mark O. Madsen ends his 17-month layoff from the Octagon. Without even knowing the result of his co-main event against Clay Guida, the three-time Danish Olympian believes that he’s already completed the greatest comeback of his career.

Mark O. Madsen Hopes To Inspire His Wife | UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs Gastelum
Mark O. Madsen Hopes To Inspire His Wife | UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs Gastelum

That feeling isn’t generated from the fact that he’s finally healthy after suffering a broken jaw at UFC 248, or from recovering from COVID-19 or a tough training camp. Madsen seriously started doubting that he’d ever return to competitive MMA when his wife Maria was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

The news came as a shock to the Madsen family and changed their lives forever.

“I’ll be honest and say there were times that it didn’t look good,” Madsen told “There’s been times where I was in a dark place, and I was having doubts and I couldn’t see a way back and I couldn’t see the necessary steps that I needed to take to get back into the fight.”

Watch UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs Gastelum

But Madsen decided that one of the ways that he could best support his wife and his family was to return to competition and set an example of how determination can overcome adversity.

“A lot of this is actually about showing my wife that we won’t let disease and we won’t let adversity determine anything in our life,” Madsen said. “We won’t let it determine our dreams, what dreams we should be focusing on or what dreams we should be chasing. Even with MS, we still have all the cards on the table, and this is really about showing my wife that we can still fight, we are still in the game.”

It's impossible not to admire Madsen’s mindset and feel inspired as he describes what he’s hoping to accomplish outside the Octagon. With his wife’s diagnosis came a switch in priorities and a heightened sense of gratitude for the simple things.

And for that reason, Madsen believes that he’s already won. Everything else is just going to be icing on the cake.

“I have no simple answer on how we made it through. This is fight business, this is the UFC, this is the best promotion in the world, this is the best fighters in the world,” Madsen said. “We talk a lot about a champion’s mindset, and we talk a lot about winning. I do believe even for me as a three-time Olympian and Olympic medalist and a five-time world medalist in wrestling, I do believe the adversity you meet when it comes to disease is a different kind of adversity. We have had to dig deep, we’ve had to reevaluate our life and what we prioritize and, in that light, I’m so happy I’m back right here right now.

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“A part of what I’m saying about being proud and thankful for being back here is really about the struggle and the fight that we had to put in before the actual fight. I’m coming into this fight with an amazing feeling of gratitude and also achievement. I’ve been in elite sports my entire life but this feels like the single biggest comeback of my entire career. There’s no doubt in my mind and I’m so proud.”

Reevaluating life means finding out how to best treat the symptoms that come with MS, learning more about the disease, as well as figuring out the best way to spend time and energy to create the best possible environment for his wife. As an elite competitor, Madsen enters fight week focused on Guida and using everything he’s been feeling as motivation.

“Right now, I am in the fight week and I have a massive opportunity in Clay Guida waiting ahead; it’s a co-main event. Looking six months back, I had no idea I would be able to come back to MMA, return to the Octagon, return to the UFC,” Madsen said. “MS is a chronic disease; it’s something that my wife will have to live with for the rest of her life. It’s something that we as a family will have to live with for the rest of our life. It can be very disabling, but I’m all about focusing on positivity and the job at hand and figuring that out and solving that, then moving on.”

UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs Gastelum is Madsen’s opportunity to face a UFC Hall of Famer and make a statement.

View Madsen's Athlete Profile

Madsen wants to show that he’s not only deserving of a place in the UFC but that he’s not going to stop climbing until he’s reached the top. That’s the thought that was on Madsen’s mind when his jaw broke early in the second round of his fight with Austin Hubbard, and it’s a big reason he believes he’s going to take care of business against Guida.

“I broke my jaw early in the second round and I was able to push through eight minutes with a jaw broken in two places,” Madsen recalled. “I didn’t flinch, I stayed focused, and I pushed through. I think that’s the takeaway that everyone should be taking away from that fight. I’m dedicated and I’m ready to push through, no matter what happens.”

And no matter what happens this weekend, Madsen is going to inspire the person that needs it the most.

That’s the true victory.


Tune into UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs Gastelum on August 21 at 10pm ET / 7pm PT on ESPN and ESPN+ to see Madsen’s return to the Octagon.