Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The painful road back

Getting injured is not good for any athlete. Knee injuries are particularly worrisome, especially for an athlete trying to strive for greatness. But Rob Sullivan did his best to make rehabbing his knee injury fun.

Sullivan, 32, suffered multiple tears and other injuries to his knee while training for a fight last summer. Before he underwent surgery, he performed rehabilitation two days a week for five weeks to make sure his muscles didn’t totally fail.

“I was actually able to do some lifting toward the end,” Sullivan said of his pre-surgery rehab. However, following his surgery, all of Sullivan’s strength in his knee was completely gone.

“I had to get everything back,” he said. Sullivan began rehab five days after his surgery, which included body squats and riding a bike. He also jumped rope and performed an exercise that included standing on one foot.

“That was the most fun thing,” Sullivan said. “Everything else was boring and monotonous.”

Prior to his injury, Sullivan was able to make a living as a professional fighter. However, during his rehab he had to return to his previous career working as a carpenter and in construction. It was there that Sullivan experienced another close call that could have been catastrophic.

“I was the superintendent on a construction project and while the work got done, I couldn’t help for the first month,” Sullivan said. “One day I had to climb a ladder to fix something and my knee brace got stuck. I fell to the ground, face-first.”

It wasn’t long afterward that Sullivan returned to his mixed martial arts training at Baltimore BJJ, where he found wrestling to be the toughest obstacle at first. Sullivan resumed boxing two-and-a-half months after his surgery, which also required re-learning proper footwork.

“My coach would see me step weird and tell me to stop,” Sullivan said. In addition to getting into a groove with his training, Sullivan also had to lose weight – he reached 189 pounds prior to his surgery.

“I lost that weight real fast,” Sullivan said. “I lost 20 pounds in one month, and now I can do everything I did pre-injury.”

That includes fighting, and Sullivan is scheduled to compete at Shogun Fights 14 in Baltimore on April 16. Sullivan started his camp last week and plans to fight at featherweight after spending most his career at bantamweight.

“I feel great,” Sullivan said. “There’s always going to be numbness in part of my leg but the strength and mobility is there. The strength is better than it was before.”

As Sullivan embarks on his first fight in a year, he’s looking to change things up to become a better fighter.

“I’m thinking how I can learn new things and be better at kickboxing, wrestling, boxing and with my timing,” Sullivan said. “I don’t want what happened with my knee to happen again.”

Prior to his injury, Sullivan’s goal was to fight five times in one year. He had three fights in 2015 before his injury, but has set his sights on a new goal – to secure a long-term contract with a MMA organization like Bellator, World Series of Fighting or with a regional promotion like Cage Fury Fighting Championships or CES MMA.

“If the UFC called, you would have to be an idiot not to take that,” Sullivan said. “But I don’t think I would be a good fit in the UFC right now; they lump everyone together. I like to be my own person and control my image.”