Joseph Henle feels he was on his way to winning the MFC middleweight title last October, but then it all got taken away from him with one kick.
In a hotly contested bout against dangerous striker Elvis Mutapcic, Henle ate a powerful strike to the knee which not only finished the fight, but also took him out of action for a few months with an MCL tear.
After completing his rehab, "Leonidas" is now on a campaign to earn a rematch against Mutapcic, a champion he feels is beatable.
The former season 11 cast member of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) will begin his comeback trail at BAMMA USA against Miguel Cosia later tonight (March 15, 2013) in a bout he hopes will get him ready for the upcoming May MFC event.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're coming off a hard-fought middleweight title loss to Elvis Mutapcic at MFC 35 October and we haven't heard much from you since, other than you're competing at the BAMMA USA event this weekend. Can you fill in the gaps for us?
Joe Henle: Yeah, in October we had the fight with Elvis. The third round obviously wasn't the best. I broke my hand about 30 seconds into the round and then a couple minutes later there went the knee. I had about an 8-9 week recovery, had an immobilizer brace on the knee, no bending, no nothing, had another cast on the hand for about the same amount of time and other than that, it was just slowly getting back in the groove of things more or less. First it was walking, then it was jogging, then light lifting. Once we got into mid-January, I really started getting into it again. I got a new strength coach and really started hitting the weights, a lot of explosive lifts, a lot of functional movement stuff. I started wrestling, I coach wrestling at a high school, started working with the kids, feeling a little bit better and as time went by, I started feeling great. I knew MFC wasn't going to put on an event until May after the February card and I knew I wasn't going to be ready for the February card and I wanted to get a fight in before that so I asked them if I could take a fight for BAMMA USA and they gave me their blessing. Now I get to put on a show for my local fans here and I'm really excited about it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): It's got to be nice that MFC gave you the opportunity to get back into the groove of fighting without a lot of pressure too.
Joe Henle: Yeah, it's one of those things, Mark and the guys at MFC are very workable. They only put on about 4-5 events a year and if you miss a card, especially guys at this level, that's missing a lot of money. They understands I needed something to help me get by and I wanted to stay active, not be out of the game for too long. It's not like I'm fighting a 10-0 killer and they're afraid it'll damage my name. I'm fighting a tough cat but it's a fight I should be able to win. They expect me to go out there and handle business like their future champion should.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I like that, future champion. So if everything goes as planned, you go to BAMMA USA, take care of business, head to MFC, maybe win a fight at 185 and then get another shot at Mutapcic?
Joe Henle: Yeah, watching the fight, he dropped me in the first round so that round goes to him for sure. The second round, I felt went to me. I was touching him up with my boxing and got the takedown at the end of the round. The third round, despite my broken hand, I felt like I was doing great and was touching him up again. It's funny listening to descriptions of the fight people saying he was "decimating me with leg kicks" and not to take anything away from Elvis. Elvis is a great leg kick fighter. He throws them like a beast but he wasn't really connecting them with much. When you absorb leg kicks, there's a big difference between catching them from the shin and from the foot and I caught a lot from the foot. To be honest, when we got to the hospital for the knee, coach mentioned something about bruises on my leg and I laughed at him. It wasn't until I looked down that I realized I had some. It kills me to hear people talk about him crushing me with leg kicks but it's just one of those things. What are you going to do?
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about this superhuman healing ability of yours, "Wolverine-esque." You have the hand and knee injury and you're back training at 100 percent less than three months later and now you're fighting less than five months later so did you just feel like everything went perfect in the rehab? Was this an injury that didn't require surgery?
Joe Henle: It's funny. Story of my life. Every time I get injured, it's injured for sure but it's not as bad as it could have been. The knee injury looked terrible live. I looked like I had an "L" for a leg but all that happened was I tore the MCL and it didn't tear all the way off the bone. They told me the worst tear you can get was a 3 and mine was a 2+ so I didn't require surgery, it just had to sit in that immobilizer brace for a while so I couldn't move it, which is terribly awkward by the way.
Same thing with the hand. I'll never forget, I feinted with the jab, threw a right hook and I caught him right in the cheek and the minute I pulled back, I was like, "Whoa! Either I hit him super hard or something went wrong. My hand kinda hurts." I'd never broken a hand like that before so I wasn't sure, I kept on fighting, the knee went and I get to the back and my coach is starting to pull off my glove and I tell them I think I broke my right hand. They take my glove and the tape off and there's a giant lump behind my knuckle. Even that, I got lucky. It didn't displace the bone, didn't offset. The bone was broke but it stayed right in place. It didn't require pins or anything, just again, it had to sit in a cast and I could not move it.
As much as I feel a lot was taken away from me not being able to finish a fight that I felt was an extremely winnable fight that I was winning, I got lucky. It could have been so much worse. When he kicked me it could have been MCL, ACL, PCL, the whole knee, could have required surgery like Dominick Cruz and instead it's seven weeks with an MCL. The hand could been pinned up and casted for months but nope, just casted for a few weeks. I definitely felt the touch of god there.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): We always hear the stories about fighters having trouble regaining confidence in their injured areas when they're first getting back. Did you have trouble trusting your injuries when you first started training 100 percent? Perhaps shooting in for a takedown in training or hitting the bag as hard as you could?
Joe Henle: I think it was okay because I took enough time to the point where it wasn't scary. I started slowly. I wrestled with the kids at high school and I'm a 215 pound grown man taking on a 195 pound kid so I could protect myself better. I wasn't so much on the reaction as much as it was me reacting. I was much safer about things. I could move slowly and if I tweaked something, I just took a break. I feel like I did a good job and when it comes to the hands, it did take a bit to go after the punching back at first but once I got a couple rounds in on the back, I started feeling really good.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know you expect to win, but is there any goal you have in mind or anything you'd like to accomplish with this upcoming fight?
Joe Henle: Not specifically in how I fight. I'd like to implement my game but the good thing about Miguel as an opponent is he really like to throw his kicks and how can say this without sounding rude? He's not a dirty fighter, but he fought my buddy Mike Jasper and he went to touch his gloves after a nut shot in the second round and he threw a punch damn near at the same time. Seeing that about him, I can already assume that kicks to the knee are coming. He's gonna try to kick me in the knee. I think that's a good thing for me because I need to know that I can just check that and not worry. He provides what I need to feel better about myself. If I take him down, I'll beat him up there, if I stand up I'll try to beat it there. I think in my last two fights, knocking out Luke Harris and putting hands on Mr. Mutapcic, I've proven I can be pretty dangerous everywhere. I'm just taking this fight where it goes and I want to keep winning.
You can follow Henle on Twitter @LeonidasMMA.