Thiago Alves couldn't have come back at a better time.
After watching Johny Hendricks emerge as the new welterweight champion this past weekend (Sat., March 15, 2014), "Pitbull" will now gun for the belt that he once failed to capture thanks to Georges St-Pierre back at UFC 100.
It's just been a little rough these past two years.
"I had four major surgeries the last two years. I had two surgeries in 2012 and two surgeries in 2013. I'm finally healthy, and I'm finally training hard again and I'm ready to take on the welterweight division in 2014."
Apparently, those surgeries weren't exactly minor issues, as he explained on "The MMA Hour:"
"Actually, I had two chest surgeries. I tore my right and my left pec major, I had an ACL/PCL on my left knee repaired, and my last surgery was on my left bicep when I was getting ready to fight Matt Brown."
Alves, 30, cites an accumulation of mixed martial arts (MMA) training at a high level for the physical breakdown. With everything seemingly now repaired, "Pitbull" is eager to regain the momentum he once had before he fought for the welterweight title.
And that starts with making his date with Seth Baczynski, which takes place next month at UFC on FOX 11 in Orlando, Florida. Surely, his work is cut out for him.
After losing to St-Pierre several years ago, Alves has been on an inconsistent UFC run. In fact, he's 2-3 since 2010, a span that included him missing weight for a second time against Jon Fitch at UFC 117 and then again at UFC 138.
His latest outing was a submission loss to Martin Kampmann at UFC on FX 2 little more than two years ago.
"I feel better than I did before. Two years without training, without pushing. It actually gave me extra energy, an extra boost. All the little nagging and injuries I've had on my body have completely went away. I'm able to do stuff now with my body since I'm all healed up that I wasn't able to do since I was 24, 25. So, I'm very excited, very happy."
It's apparent to Alves since he's been gone that the Welterweight division underwent some major changes. He admits watching it all unfold on the sidelines wasn't great; nonetheless, he looks forward to making an impact of his own.
"It was painful, it was very painful. Especially when it's out of your hands. If it was something that I was performing, and I was not doing well, that's one thing. You could say it's called responsibility, but in this case, it was out of my hands. I just had to wait, and work on all the aspects. I worked a lot on the mental aspects. I'm a lot mentally tougher than I was before because all the things that you go through without being able to complete. But, I'm happy and I'm very excited with the welterweight division right now. I think it's open, and I'm excited to get back in there."
It's not like Alves took a huge break from watching the sport. He was definitely doing his homework outside of the cage, too.
"I've been studying everybody in this weight class, that's what I've been doing. I couldn't work my body, but I've been working a lot on my mind, strategies and what you can do, which guy is good at this and all that."
As for who is the toughest 170-pound fighter on the roster, Alves believes the champion stands above the rest, but he doesn't exclude his American Top Team compatriots.
"The toughest guy in the weight class? Definitely Hendricks, because he's the champion, you can't debate on that. But, I think I train against the best guys in the welterweight division -- my teammates are definitely the toughest guys in the weight class. You go against the toughest guys on a day-to-day basis."
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