It's been more than a year since Eddie Yagin last stepped foot in the UFC Octagon, but his absence was much more serious than your average training injury.
As he was preparing for a December 2012 showdown against German striker Dennis Siver, Yagin started to experience very serious headaches that were not dulling no matter what kind of rest or medication he took.
He eventually made his way to the emergency room when the pain got too severe to handle, and his diagnosis was very scary. Following an MRI and CAT scan, Yagin received word that he had a subdural hematoma, which is essentially blood collecting around the brain, causing swelling. It can be a life threatening condition.
It forced Yagin to re-evaluate everything he had in life because for the past 12 years all he knew was fighting, and this one moment threatened to take it all away.
"It's like the most mind racking thing that could ever happen. You're in limbo, and you don't know what exactly is going to happen," Yagin explained when speaking to Bleacher Report. "For me, I have plans on doing other things in my life but not until I'm retired from fighting. I have other plans in my life, but right now I'm at the age where I need to fulfill my destiny.
"You only live once. You only have that age once in your life. I don't want to live with that would have, should have, could have don’t this. I like to live it up until I can't go. Drive until the wheels fall off."
Doctors told Yagin that he would need approximately six months off to see if the condition improved before he could return to the cage. During that time, Yagin fell into a bit of a dark place because without fighting it was hard to identify the man staring back at him in the mirror.
Yagin's friends and teammates tried to get him into the gym to stay active, but with so much uncertainty haunting his every step, motivation wasn't at an all-time high. Fear crept into Yagin's thoughts because with such a serious head injury, he was scared that one wrong punch or move could land him back in the hospital with a much more serious health issue.
"I didn't train hard. A lot of my friends wanted me to come to the gym and roll, and most of the time I didn't want to do any contact stuff too much because of how aggressive people can get in the gym," Yagin said. "Sometimes training is harder than fighting. I just wanted to do my thing and stay in shape. I lifted weights and hit the bag and did cardio. The only thing that killed me was my diet."
The head injury also forced Yagin to reassess how he would approach fighting if he were ever able to return. During his biggest moments in the sport, Yagin was known as a banger—a fighter who would trade punch for punch until either he or his opponent fell down.
The style gained him a big fan following, but he also took a ton of damage while playing that dangerous game.
"It taught me to keep my hands up," Yagin said about his injury. "I went back through my injury, and I was watching video and watching myself, and I need to keep my hands up more. I used to study (Mike) Tyson a lot and how Tyson used to keep his hands by his chin. His hands were tucked to his chin, and I was a real big fan of that. I used to practice that.
"Now that I had a head injury, the weakest parts of your head are your temples. So now instead of training hands up to your chin, it's hands up and your thumbs are touching your temples."
As time passed by, Yagin waited for his doctor's appointment to see if everything was cleared up enough to allow him to return to fighting. Monday, he got the news that he was fully recovered and could resume his MMA career.
Yagin was so excited he even posted the doctor's release on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook just to share his good news with the world.
Six months ago, Yagin wasn't sure he'd ever be able to fight again, and his head injury was literally threatening to put him into brain surgery. Now, with the clearance to get back in action, Yagin is looking at this as a new life and new chapter in his MMA career.
"It's such a blessing for me. I feel like it's a second chance," Yagin said. "This injury taught me a lot."
For now, Yagin's main goal is to get back in shape after a bad diet put a lot of extra pounds on his body, while he was unable to work out much or stay in the gym. Once he sheds the weight, Yagin will await a call from the UFC to give him his next assignment, so he can get back to business.
"I'll keep praying and keep my fingers crossed. In the meantime, I'm just going to stay in the best shape that I can, so if I can replace someone if I need to replace them," Yagin said. "If not, we can schedule something, and I will bang with the best."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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