JOSH EMMET Woke Up with his wife Vanessa, looking at him four years ago in the bedroom of their Northern California home. The couple were high school sweethearts and have been together for almost two decades. They are inseparable. Even if there is something wrong with Emmett, Vanessa will notice it.

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It was February 28, 2018. Four days ago, Emmett competed in a UFC fight against Jeremy Stevens in Orlando, Florida. Stevens won via knockout after a series of vicious blows to Emmett’s head, including an illegal knee, elbow, and heavy punches. Orlando hospital doctors allowed Emmett to fly home after determining that his injuries were superficial. But as Vanessa got ready for work on their first morning in the Sacramento area, she sensed something was wrong with her husband.

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“Inwardly, I just felt that something was wrong,” she said. “We’ve been through [MMA] fights; it bounces back relatively quickly. I just thought, “I think we should go to the hospital and get a second opinion.”

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Emmett remained stoic, as always. According to his wife, he has an uncanny ability to mask his pain. But that morning they went to the hospital, and Vanessa’s instinct was right. The news the couple received from the doctors was nothing short of horrifying. The floor of Emmett’s left eye socket was completely destroyed, the left side of his orbital bone was fractured, his cheek was depressed, and he had a pinched nerve near the muscle that controls the movement of his left eye.

The doctors told Emmett that they were shocked that he was walking normally. He was told that he would need to be taken to another facility for emergency surgery. Later, around midnight, a frightened ophthalmologist visited Emmett in his hospital room.

“When I see X-rays like yours, someone’s eye has either fallen out of its socket and is hanging, or it has fallen behind the skull and is not working,” the ophthalmologist told Emmett, according to Vanessa.

At that point, the couple didn’t think about getting into a fight with Emmett again. Their main concern was the quality of life. Dr. Alberto Panero, Emmett’s lead recovery physician, said it could very easily have been a “career-ending” injury.

However, Emmett was able to return to the octagon 13 months later. He hasn’t lost since the Stevens fight, including the 2020 fight against Shane Burgos, in which Emmett completely ripped out his left knee at 19 seconds into the fight.

Emmett, 37, is on a four-fight streak and a win over Calvin Kattar on Saturday in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Austin, Texas could land him a featherweight title shot. Emmett, who came back from tearing his knee after defeating Dan Ige last December, said he persevered because of his obsession with becoming a UFC champion, as well as the medical support team he built around him and his mental training, including hypnosis.

Panero describes perseverance in a more dramatic way. “He’s really not talked about much,” the doctor told Sportzshala. “He probably has two of the biggest comeback stories in UFC history with these two major injuries like this one. Both of them are just crazy to come back after them.”


ACQUIRED EMMETTS new house at the beginning of 2018. The timing wasn’t perfect due to Josh’s facial injury. Even after a successful operation – Emmett had an L-shaped metal plate implanted in his face – there were other problems.

One day, when Emmett was trying to fix the lights in the new house, Vanessa saw him struggle up and down the stairs. Emmett was an acrobat as a child and had excellent balance. He is known for his athleticism in Team Alpha Male. And here he is stumbling while doing household chores.

Emmett’s facial bones were healing normally. But he had severe symptoms from the concussion, the worst of which was dizziness. The simplest everyday tasks have become annoying or even worse.

“I couldn’t even sit or lie down without feeling sick,” Emmett said. “It seemed to me that the damn room was spinning, everything around. It was so bad… I didn’t know if I could ever fight again.”

Emmett contacted Panero, whom he knew through Russ Dunning, a physical therapist working with fighters in Northern California. Panero, who specializes in regenerative orthopedics and sports medicine, asked Emmett if he could “support” the fighter’s recovery process. Emmett, desperate for solutions, agreed.

Panero’s first recommendation was for Emmett to see a vestibular therapist, a physician who treats imbalance disorders such as vertigo and vertigo. Emmett started doing this three to four times a week. Panero also sent Emmett for CranioSacral Therapy, a gentle type of massage in which physical touch helps relieve injuries to the face and skull.

According to Panero, it was a step by step process. Emmett needed to get rid of his concussion symptoms before he could start training in MMA again. However, Emmett remained active, taking up cycling to stay in shape. The vertigo was gone for eight or nine months, and as soon as it happened, Emmett was back on Team Alpha Male.

Emmett’s first sparring was without headshots, focusing only on body shots. Once he was able to do this without symptoms, Emmett moved on to regular sparring, but with a headgear. And as soon as he was able to do so safely, the headgear fell off.

Emmett knew he was 100% back when he was able to spar with teammate Chad Mendez, who used Emmett as his primary training partner for his December 2018 fight with Alexander Volkanovski, who is now the UFC Featherweight Champion. Sparring together in the gym with Mendez, who at the time was one of the best 145-pound fighters in the world, gave Emmett confidence.

“I just had a little hiccup or whatever you want to call it with this loss. [to Stephens] back in 2018, but I’m grateful for that,” Emmett said. “I have grown so much as an athlete, as a fighter. I got a lot of pleasure from this loss. To be honest, it motivated me even more.”


EMMETT IS BACK IN Octagon on March 30, 2019 for his fight against Michael Johnson in Philadelphia. In the third round, Emmet hit Johnson with a right hand and Johnson didn’t get up. Emmett is back as one of the most dangerous fighters in the UFC featherweight division. Watching from California, Panero smiled.

“All this tension and all the hardening he went through, this whole process, was released in one hit,” Panero said.

Emmett followed up with knocking out Johnson with a TKO over Mirsad Bektic on July 13, 2019 in front of his friends and family in Sacramento. The victory earned him a $50,000 Performance of the Night award, which is a good amount of money for someone who had just been out of action and had no income for over a year.

However, 11 months later, things went from bad to worse. Emmett’s next major fight was against Burgos, the co-main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas on June 20, 2020. The victory could give Emmett a fight with a better opponent. And Emmett did win, but the result was not the main headline of the contest.

Emmett tore his left cruciate ligament about 19 seconds into the fight. Somehow, he won by unanimous decision while in severe pain and lacking stability in his left leg. Emmett said he knew immediately that he had torn his knee ligaments, but never considered stopping the fight because “I would have known I had given up and it’s not in me.”

“Most people just fall right off the bat,” Panero said of such knee injuries. “They fall, they stay down, and that’s it. It’s the end of the day. The fact that he stayed standing, to stay in the fight and win, was just amazing. Just knowing this guy now, I wasn’t shocked. anyone who was able to do it, it had to be him.”

After that, the good news was that Emmett, fighting on an injured knee, did no further damage. The bad news? The damage was already pretty bad. Emmett’s anterior cruciate ligament was completely torn, and his MCL and meniscus were partially torn. When Emmett’s anterior cruciate ligament fractured, a blow to his leg also broke his femur and tibia.

Having renounced catastrophic facial injuries, Emmett was back on the shelf.

“I feel like I had almost two things that ended my career – they may be career-ending stuff,” Emmett said. “People who had half of what I had never come back to fight.”

As with the facial fractures, Emmett only got worse before getting better. Six months after the initial surgery to repair the damaged ligaments, Emmett had to go under the knife again. Panero explained that in ACL surgery, a tissue graft is taken from another part of the body to help with recovery. In Emmett’s case, doctors took a graft from his left patellar tendon, which attaches the kneecap to the tibia.

Emmett’s anterior cruciate ligament healed without problems. However, the patella from which the doctors took the graft did not heal, and another operation was required. Panero said the severity of Emmett’s problem was “unusual”. Emmett couldn’t bend his knee while leaning on it without being in excruciating pain. Because of this, his left quadriceps muscle began to atrophy over time and became difficult to strengthen.

“It was very painful,” Panero said. “It just really slowed down his ability to rehabilitate.”

Emmett couldn’t even get off the curb or walk down the stairs for 10 months without severe pain. The spring in his left knee had completely stopped. According to Emmett, in some ways it was more psychologically difficult for him than facial injuries. Since 2016, he has been visiting psychological trainer Josh Manuel, using hypnosis to visualize how he will win fights. Emmett used the same method as part of his knee rehabilitation, working with Manuel to visualize the “little people” inside his knee repairing it.

“These substances have been researched and they really work,” Emmett said. “It’s about faith, and that was huge…