Jake Matthews makes his return to the UFC this weekend after a yearlong hiatus from the octagon due to dual hip surgery.
Years of footy and martial arts training eventually caught up with the youngster. A fracture and arthritic symptoms forcing him to undergo keyhole surgery as well as have 8 millimetres shaved from three sides of both of his hips.
Despite the long lay-off, Matthews believes the time spent away from the cage was a blessing in disguise.
“You never want to take time off until you do and you realise after it how much better you feel for it” Matthews said.
“It does get a bit monotonous training day in day out, three sessions a day, back to back training camps, just fighting non-stop.
“I think I fought three or four times a year until that point, so it’s good to have a break, you never want to, but I think it is for the better.”
After 16-weeks without stepping on the mat, it was not long before Matthews jumped straight back into action once he was given the all clear to resume training.
“I went in the Australian BJJ championships earlier in the year, about three weeks back into training, my first black belt comp and I got gold in that.” He said.
“You can’t go and fight outside the UFC, so the least you can do is enter a jiu-jitsu comp and get that competitive mindset again, get back around that environment before the big one comes.”
The big one comes this Sunday as Matthews takes on Serbian fighter Bojan Velickovic. After mixed results at lightweight, he is hoping a move up to welterweight will allow his body to perform at peak condition.
“Just being able to eat and stay refuelled, especially during fight week is really helping” Matthews said.
“Usually I would be trying to get a session out and ten minutes in, I would want to call it quits because I just couldn’t throw punches, I couldn’t grapple and I would just get rag dolled around because I had no energy.
“It’s a lot different this time and today, I’m doing two sessions today. A day before the weigh inn, I’m eating full meals, three or four meals a day so it’s a big difference.
“I’m cutting half the amount of weight and feeling twice as strong.”
At only 23-years-old, Matthews has already fought seven times in the UFC. As one of the top young prospects to come out of Australia, back-to-back losses have left people wondering if he will be able to live up to the expectations and the pressure that comes with it.
“I know this is a must win fight but it doesn’t add any extra pressure.
“I’m going into the fight to win it anyway, that’s what I expect of myself is to win fights.
“It’s what everybody else expects, so there’s no added pressure there and I feel like I can actually show people what I can do in there for once.
“I’m hitting a lot harder now, I feel a lot stronger on the ground, my wrestling is way up there so hopefully I will use all that and put it all together and go for submission, knockout, TKO, anything.”
UFC Fight Night 121 takes place this Sunday at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney.
My earliest combat sports memory is watching David Tua knock people out with his left hook. I am extremely passionate about combat sports in Australia and my home country of New Zealand and I endeavour to grow the profile of martial arts and its athletes in both countries. Persistent Brazilian jiu-jitsu battler.