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5 times a UFC fighter suffered a serious injury mid-fight and went on to win

Jon Jones survived a serious injury to defeat Chael Sonnen in 2013
Jon Jones survived a serious injury to defeat Chael Sonnen in 2013
Scott Newman

While MMA is often sold as a “safe” sport, the fighters competing in the UFC definitely aren’t able to avoid injuries all of the time.

While many of the injuries picked up by MMA fighters happen in training, we’ve seen the stars of the UFC suffer injuries during fights on plenty of occasions, too.

Naturally, some of these injuries are enough to stop a fight on the dot, think Anderson Silva’s leg break against Chris Weidman, for instance. However, incredibly, there have been instances of fighters suffering serious injuries and going onto win.

Anderson Silva posted a message to Chris Weidman after Weidman severely injured his leg at #UFC261 Weidman was Silva's opponent seven years ago at UFC 168 when Silva suffered a similar-looking injury. https://t.co/hqtxTsnOep

With that considered, here are five times that a UFC fighter picked up a serious injury mid-fight and went on to win.


#5. Conor McGregor – torn ACL vs. Max Holloway at UFC Fight Night 26

Conor McGregor had to change his gameplan entirely after tearing his ACL in his clash with Max Holloway
Conor McGregor had to change his gameplan entirely after tearing his ACL in his clash with Max Holloway

2021 saw Conor McGregor suffer one of the more memorable and gnarly injuries in recent history, as his third fight with Dustin Poirier ended abruptly when the Irishman snapped his leg following an attempted low kick.

However, it wasn’t the first major injury that ‘The Notorious’ had suffered during his UFC tenure. It’s arguable that it wasn’t even the worst, either.

After making a successful octagon debut by knocking out Marcus Brimage in April 2013, McGregor found himself matched with fellow prospect Max Holloway in his second fight with the promotion just four months later.

The Dublin native was given a huge welcome by the large Irish contingent in Boston when the fight with Holloway began. Early on, it looked like he’d be successful in outstriking the Hawaiian as he’d done with Brimage.

However, as the fight went on, it became clear that something was wrong with McGregor. Thatw was most notable when the Irishman suddenly stopped striking and began to use takedowns to control Holloway on the ground.

The fight ticked away until the final buzzer. While ‘The Notorious’ received a decision victory, it was a strangely uneventful win for him. Days after the event, it became clear why this was.

@ufc @BlessedMMA @TheNotoriousMMA Conor McGregor fought with a torn ACL against Max Holloway and still won 😳😳😳 https://t.co/HVqWjBLFLu

A post-fight MRI scan revealed McGregor had actually torn his ACL during the early part of the fight, meaning he was essentially fighting on one leg throughout. Quite how the Irishman had pulled off the victory was a major question mark. Suddenly, any doubts about his talent following the fight were erased.

McGregor spent the best part of a year on the shelf rehabbing the injury and his climb to super-stardom had to wait a little longer.

#4. Rich Franklin – broken arm vs. Chuck Liddell at UFC 115

Rich Franklin had to fight through a broken arm to defeat Chuck Liddell
Rich Franklin had to fight through a broken arm to defeat Chuck Liddell

Renowned as one of the toughest fighters of his generation, former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin suffered plenty of injuries during his tenure with the promotion. Undoubtedly the wildest one came in his clash with Chuck Liddell in 2010.

#OnThisDay in UFC history - Legends Chuck Liddell & Rich Franklin went to war! ⬇️ https://t.co/lZ96dEMDpW

Franklin only took the fight with ‘The Iceman’ on late notice following the withdrawal of Tito Ortiz. While Liddell had spent over a year on the shelf following a pair of bad knockout losses, he looked to be in his best shape for a long time.

Sure enough, the former light heavyweight kingpin came out on the offensive from the off as the fight began, launching violent strikes at Franklin. That included a vicious kick that ‘Ace’ appeared to have blocked with his arm.

The only problem was that while he blocked the kick, Liddell had thrown it with such force that it’d snapped Franklin’s left arm. After the bout, ‘Ace’ stated that he could feel the broken bone “clicking” and that with the arm essentially useless, he knew he simply had to keep swinging to see what would happen.

Incredibly, as Liddell continued to push the pace, closing Franklin down with a flurry against the fence, he dropped his hands for a second. That allowed ‘Ace’ to throw a clean counter right hand that connected directly to the jaw.

‘The Iceman’ fell to the ground and was knocked unconscious immediately, ending his UFC career for good. Franklin, meanwhile, headed directly to the hospital to have his broken arm fixed and it was another eight months before he would fight again.


#3. Demetrious Johnson – broken leg vs. Miguel Torres at UFC 126

Demetrious Johnson managed to fight through a broken leg to claim victory over Miguel Torres at UFC 126
Demetrious Johnson managed to fight through a broken leg to claim victory over Miguel Torres at UFC 126

We’ve seen broken legs end the night for UFC fighters on numerous occasions, including in major fights involving stars like Chris Weidman, Anderson Silva and Conor McGregor. Naturally, it isn’t the kind of injury fighters can usually push through.

However, in his second octagon appearance in 2011, future flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson not only managed to survive a broken fibula, but also managed to gut out a remarkable victory in the process.

‘Mighty Mouse’ was hardly faced with an easy opponent, too. Fighting at 135 pounds, he was matched with former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres, a fighter who was hoping to claim a shot at the newly-created UFC bantamweight title later in the year.

During the fight, it wasn’t easy to tell that Johnson had suffered an injury at all. He displayed his trademark quick striking skills, slick takedowns and excellent top control. While it was debatable as to whether he deserved the nod from the judges, it was an excellent performance.

Retro Robbery Review: Demetrious Johnson vs. Miguel Torres at UFC 130 mmafighting.com/2021/5/29/2245… https://t.co/pc2HlPkALR

Only after the fight did ‘Mighty Mouse’ reveal that he’d suffered a serious injury, though. He stated that in the second round, he’d thrown a kick that Torres had checked and when he stepped back, he’d heard “crunching”.

Sure enough, it was revealed in a scan that Johnson had completely fractured his fibula, meaning he’d somehow been able to gut out the victory over Torres on one leg.

The win was enough to net Johnson a shot at the bantamweight title, but he had to wait five months for it, giving him enough time to rehab his injury in the process.

#2. Georges St-Pierre – torn groin vs. Thiago Alves at UFC 100

Georges St-Pierre was able to fight through a torn groin to defeat Thiago Alves
Georges St-Pierre was able to fight through a torn groin to defeat Thiago Alves

Widely recognized as the greatest fighter in MMA history, Georges St-Pierre won the UFC welterweight title for the second time in April 2008. He went on to defend it successfully on nine occasions before stepping away in 2013.

Which title challenger was his toughest test is probably a fair debate. While many fans would point to his final victory over Johny Hendricks, there’s no doubt that the fight that left him with the most damage came against Thiago Alves.

‘The Pitbull’ earned his shot at GSP by beating the likes of Matt Hughes, Karo Parisyan and Josh Koscheck. When it came to a fight with the Canadian, he was sorely overmatched.

Alves was unable to get his trademark violent Muay Thai game going, particularly his leg kicks. When GSP began to take him down with some heavy double leg takedowns, it looked like he’d cruise to victory.

However, the Canadian had an issue when the third round ended. As he headed into his corner, he told coach Greg Jackson that he’d torn his groin. In a classic response, clearly recognizing the toughness of his fighter, Jackson simply told St-Pierre that he didn’t care, and even told him to hit Alves with his groin!

Sure enough, GSP came out for the fourth round looking no worse for wear and continued to dominate ‘The Pitbull’ en route to a five-round decision win, before promptly heading off to rehab the injury.


#1. Jon Jones – broken toe vs. Chael Sonnen at UFC 159

Had Jon Jones' toe injury against Chael Sonnen been noticed by the referee, he likely would've lost his title
Had Jon Jones' toe injury against Chael Sonnen been noticed by the referee, he likely would've lost his title

It’s probably fair to say that Jon Jones’ light heavyweight title defense against Chael Sonnen at UFC 159 was probably one of the most one-sided title bouts in the promotion’s history. However, had things gone slightly differently, it could easily have been Sonnen coming away with his hand raised as the new champion.

Essentially, the fight went exactly as Jones had hoped. He took ‘The American Gangster’ down early on, pinned him to the ground and then went to work with elbows and punches until referee Keith Peterson had seen enough.

Incredibly, though, it was only when the fight was over that Jones noticed he’d suffered a serious toe injury in defeating Sonnen. The injury was so gnarly that ‘Bones’ had to immediately be offered a stool to sit on, as it looked like he might collapse due to the shock.

Replays eventually showed what happened; as Jones attempted to take Sonnen down early in the fight, his toe rolled underneath his foot, snapping and almost tearing off entirely.

It was the kind of injury that would immediately have forced a doctor to stop the fight had it been noted. So, had Jones failed to finish ‘The American Gangster’ before the end of the first round, he likely would’ve lost his title via TKO.

As it was, though, ‘Bones’ held onto the gold, although he did explain that the injury and the rehab that followe, prevented him from going on vacation to Jamaica directly after the fight. Given what could’ve happened, this was clearly the lesser of two evils!

Edited by Harvey Leonard

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