After two surgeries to repair a detached retina in his right eye, Alan Belcher says his vision is still blurry and dark and he told Ariel Helwani backstage during UFC 119 on Saturday that he is “less than 50 percent” recovered. Nonetheless, if Belcher can avoid another surgery it is possible he could return to MMA action sometime next summer, he says.
“My doctor is optimistic and all the other doctors I’ve talked to are optimistic about it,” Belcher says. “It’s just, if I have more surgeries and other things go wrong, it could be a possibility that I can’t fight again. I just have to get all healed up and I have to pass the ophthalmology exam and I have to get my vision better. Right now it’s still blurry and I can’t really take the chance of hurting my other eye. (But) I’ll take the chance myself if the doctors will let me, I’ll get back in there no matter what.”
Belcher suffered the detached retina while training for Demain Maia in Brazil earlier this year. Though his first surgery appeared successful, the retina detached again two months later, requiring a second procedure. At this point, Belcher says a third setback could end his career for good, so he is mentally preparing himself to take the next year off to make sure he is fully healed before he returns.
“It just hit me all of a sudden,” he says. “I didn’t get hit or anything. I guess it was something that, before I had some tears in my retina and then it detached. I don’t know what caused it or anything, it just happened.”
The second surgery involved doctors inserting a gas bubble around his eye to hold the retina in place. The recovery from that procedure required that he lay face down for two weeks to let everything heal. At this point, he’s up and around, but says he "can’t really do anything" in terms of training. The next six weeks sound like they might be critical, to hear Belcher tell it at about the 4:40 mark in the above video. After that, he says it’s unlikely the eye will “go backward” and it will be a matter of giving it a couple more months rest before he gets back to “intense physical activity.”
If and when he does return, Belcher says he expects to immediately reinsert himself into top contention in the middleweight division. He’s not interested in a warm-up fight and says his fan base – which is only growing due to his injury, he says – will want to see him face one of the top contenders at 185-pounds.
Until then, he basically has no choice but to take it easy and hope for the best. Obviously, we all wish Belcher a speedy and complete recovery.
“(It was) very scary, man,” he says of the initial injury. “This is my livelihood (and) also my life’s work. I’ve put in my whole life to be a champion in MMA … It really scared me and it still scares me, but I’m getting used to it. Who knows what’s going happen.”