Following his third loss in a row in the UFC, Josh Burkman has decided to take some much needed time off to repair a serious back injury. The injury is similar to those suffered by other fighters such as Tito Ortiz and Nate Quarry.
Burkman spoke exclusively to MMAWeekly.com about the injury, which he originally suffered during his fight against Dustin Hazelett at the moment when he slammed his opponent to the mat. He then felt a numbness striking down his arm that lasted for a week after the fight was over.
"This is the first time in my career I've got to seriously be like I've got to get this better. I've got to take some time off," Burkman said.
The injury consists of two bulging discs in his back and another bulging disc in his neck, and the Utah native is hopeful for a natural rehab, but may have to consider surgery if the healing doesn't happen.
"I want to try to heal it naturally first so I'm going to do a lot of yoga, and basically going to do some physical therapy, and see what we can do with it," commented Burkman. "It's pretty bad, it's causing me to have arthritis in my back.
"The rehab that we're going to do is at least six weeks. And that's six weeks of rehab and not going in and screwing my back up again. I'm going to start with that and it just depends on what option I go with."
The constant pain and injury followed into his training camp for the fight against Pete Sell in which Burkman was unable to work any real ground training due to his problematic back.
"I wasn't able to wrestle, because every time I wrestled I'd be out for two days," he said.
Since his back problem was diagnosed, Burkman has stayed in close contact with friend and training partner Ortiz, who suffered a similar injury that forced him into surgery last month after the nagging problem caused him ailment for years.
"I just talked to Tito Ortiz and Tito told me how he did his NuVasive, the same thing that Quarry did, and he did that four weeks ago," stated Burkman. "Tito's rehab on that is about six months, but he's really happy with it. He's excited about how he's feeling, and I think that's the same thing that happened to Tito, the same thing that happened to me over the last couple fights."
Ortiz's back problems have stretched back all the way before his loss in the UFC to Randy Couture and Burkman noticed the changes in his training regimen even before he dealt with his own injury.
"I used to watch old videos of Tito training and when I was up in Big Bear I was like 'why don't you do this anymore, and why don't you do this anymore' and he was like 'I can't do that anymore,'" Burkman said. "We'd wrestle for one day and Tito would be out for two days (after that). Once those nerves get pinched and they get pinched over and over, it really starts to cause a lot of problems."
The former "Ultimate Fighter" season two competitor is hopeful that his back will recover with regular therapy, but he will also have to eliminate much of his MMA training during that time because of the stress on his back. He has also stated that he plans to turn back to old friends Ortiz and Quarry for advice if surgery is called for.
As far as Burkman's fight career, he is more focused on his health right now, but plans on coming back when the time is right.
"That's something that's in the air," Burkman said about his future with the UFC. "I'm definitely probably not in the best position. I've lost three fights in a row. Even though I don't feel like I lost to (Mike) Swick, and the crazy armbar (vs. Hazelett), the bottom line is I've lost three in a row.
"My contract's up with the UFC, once I get healthy I'll figure that out."
Burkman promises his fans that while he may drop out of sight for a while, he will keep working hard and be back with a renewed body that's ready for a fight.
"I think this injury is a blessing in disguise. I'll go back, I'll get healthy, and I'm going to come back stronger than ever."