UFC 160: 'Refocused' Brian Bowles finds joy in training again following 18-month, injury-filled absence

Esther Lin for MMA Fighting

After some reflection and some much-needed time off because of injuries, former champion Brian Bowles has rekindled his love for fighting and training.

Welcome back, Brian Bowles, it's been a while.

Just in case you didn't know he was gone, the former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) Bantamweight champion has been out of action since losing to Urijah Faber way back at UFC 139 in Nov. 2011.

Had Bowles defeated "The California Kid" that fateful mixed martial arts (MMA) night in San Jose, Calif., he would have earned a title shot against Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) interim 135-pound champion Renan Barao. But after tapping to Faber's guillotine choke, the talented Athens, Ga., standout was shipped to the back of the Bantamweight contender line, a position in which he has remained ever since.

It wasn't for a lack of fights, but rather injuries, including multiple staph infection battles and two bulging discs, as well as a pair of degenerative discs that were taking a toll on his back, kept Bowles from stepping back into the Octagon .

Indeed, Bowles' bum back prevented him back from a quicker return to action. And rather than risk a re-aggravation of the injury by coming back too soon, he decided a slow, steady and patient rehabilitation was the best option.

Bowles broke it down on his recent appearance on "The MMA Hour:"

"When I sit out and try to come back, I have to come back so slow to get my back conditioned to it, that if I don't, I'll hurt myself. That actually happened to me. So, we tried to come back too fast, and then I ended up hurting my back and that would put me down for another month. Then before you know it, you're out five to six months without doing anything just from trying to take off a month or two."

After sitting on the sidelines for more than 18 months, Bowles felt ready and able to return. In addition to achieving a full physical recovery, the extended layoff was also a mental refresh, helping him realize just how crucial MMA and staying active is for his well being.

He explained:

"You kind of get down on yourself when you're not training and you're sort of laying around. You're like, 'Man, I don't know if I want to do this.' I guess it's like you get depressed because you're a fighter and you're not fighting, you cant train, you're not making money, you're not doing interviews, you're not doing anything. But, as soon as I got to training hard again, I realized how much I loved it, and this is where I belong and this what I want to do."

After some reflection and an extended time away from the sport, Bowles realized just how much he needed fighting in his life and says he has recaptured the focus and desire to train after losing some of it because of the daily grind:

"Sometimes going in the gym, it wasn't fun to me anymore. And I started doing this out of fun. I didn't start doing this because I wanted to fight in UFC, this is what I want to do. I just started doing it for fun. When it became my job, and all the pressure got on me, it quit being fun, the grind of it. That little bit of break got me refocused and I really enjoy it now. I'm back where I used to be and I really like training again."

Prior to his loss to Faber, Bowles had won 10 of his first 11 professional MMA fights, with his other loss coming to current -- and oft-injured -- UFC 135-pound champion Dominick Cruz.

The former WEC veteran is currently penciled in to face George Roop on Memorial Day weekend (Sat., May 25, 2013) in Las Vegas, Nevada, when the promotion invades MGM Grand Garden for UFC 160, which features a Heavyweight title fight between current champ Cain Velasquez defending his title against Antonio Silva.

With no clear No. 1 title contender in the bantamweight division behind Eddie Wineland, who collides with Barao at UFC 161 next month, it isn't farfetched to think a few wins can get Bowles back into the proverbial, and sometimes maddening "mix."

But, he first must take care of business against a very game, albeit inconsistent, Roop. Can Bowles get the job done or will the long break work against him in "Sin City" on fight night?

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