Josh Emmett had a lot to be happy about in his personal life during 2018 but he can’t say the same when it came to his fight career.
The Team Alpha MMA fighter only competed once last year and he suffered a brutal knockout courtesy of Jeremy Stephens that left him with a shattered orbital and cheek bone that required emergency surgery after the initial diagnosis missed the severity of his injury.
In addition to that, Emmett also suffered from a serious bout of vertigo, which may have been the worst of the post-fight trauma because that condition left him wondering if he would ever be able to fight again.
“I had vertigo for a long time and then obviously all the fractures in my face and it took a long time to heal. I was trying to stay as positive as I could but it’s tough when everything is going wrong,” Emmett told MMAWeekly.
“You wake up and you sit up and the room is spinning. Like I just did 100 circles in a row and then I stood up. It’s like you’re on a boat in the ocean in the middle of the worst storm. Everything is moving. That’s why it was hard for me. I was wondering if it would ever go away and if I would fight again. I mean I put my whole life in this and it could be over just like that. You can’t take anything for granted.”
Emmett says it took him the better part of six months after his fight against Stephens to begin feeling normal again so he could return to training.
During the entire time he was out of action, Emmett attempted to always look at the bright side but it was admittedly tough after he was put on the sidelines, unable to make a living and left wondering if he’d ever compete again.
“It was a great year personally, my wife and I did some traveling and we bought a home but as far as my career or a competitive year, it was probably the all time lows,” Emmett said. “2018 was super tough. Financially it was a struggle and then all the injuries and the symptoms from the fight.”
Despite the controversial ending to the fight including a potentially illegal knee strike that set in motion the eventually finish, Emmettt doesn’t hold a grudge against Stephens in any way shape or form.
If anything, Emmett hopes to cross paths with him again one day so he could avenge his loss but outside of that he doesn’t foster any bad feelings towards Stephens more than a year later.
“Honestly, I don’t hold any ill will against him,” Emmett said. “I don’t think he’s a dirty fighter. You see all this stuff saying things and I hold nothing against him. I think he was in the heat of the moment like he’s saying.
“At the end of the day, I have to move on from that. I have no ill will towards him. When I heard about him having suicidal thoughts after the [Jose] Aldo fight, I mean I wish that upon nobody. I really do wish him the best.”
In the long run, Emmett was able to put that loss behind him and if there was a silver lining to the long layoff, the time off did allow the former Menlo College wrestler’s body to fully heal up and recover.
According to Emmett, he’s only been at full health for one fight in the UFC and that was a short notice debut. Obviously Emmett knows all fighters deal with nagging injuries so he’s never going to make any excuses but the list of problems he had included a compound fracture in his finger, separated cartilage in his ribs, separated AC joint, an elbow injury that eventually resulted in surgery and a sprained MCL in his knee.
“So I’ve been fighting at maybe 60 or 70-percent the whole time I’ve been in the UFC, except the first fight,” Emmett explained.
The extended time off to deal with the facial fractures along with the bout of vertigo allowed Emmett’s body to heal and now he’s feeling better than ever as he gets ready to resume his career at UFC Fight Night in Philadelphia in a matchup against Michael Johnson.
Emmett knows that mixed martial arts is a sport built on ‘what have you done for me lately’ and because he’s been gone for the past 13 months, a lot of people may have forgotten about him.
That’s why he’s making it his personal mission to remind the world why he’s still one of the best featherweight fighters on the planet this weekend.
“I think it’s huge and that’s why I took the fight,” Emmett said about the magnitude of this bout for his career. “Just because he has a huge following and he’s fought everybody. If I can go out there and have a great performance and get a big win over Michael Johnson, I think it does wonders for me.
“I feel like I jump right back into the mix where I was and I could potentially get an opponent in the top five next.”