Some housekeeping before I begin: The following post is about the concussion that I sustained on Friday during a grappling tournament. (At this time this takes precedence as a significant event over responding to Jarred Solomon's comment, and my time at the computer is limited since I am not really supposed to be using it much. In fact, I am writing this post mostly without looking at the screen, so please forgive any errors that I miss in my edit.)
If you are my mom, stop reading now. Mom, I've told you in the past that you should not read my blog because it will often contain things that distress you, and this is one of them.
If you are anyone else in the world, then read on.
On Thursday, I was able to cut the 8 pounds of weight I needed to lose to compete in the <130 lb division of Grappler's Quest. I registered for both Thursday's gi and Friday's no-gi event, figuring that I would probably no-show the no-gi unless I busted the $1k immediately. As the fates would have it, I was able to shove my small stack in the first orbit with 55, get called by AK, and lose.
I hustled it over to Mandalay Bay just on time to hear the announcement, "Terrence Chan, come to Mat #10, this is your final call, you are about to be disqualified." This did not seem to be a false threat because as soon as I scrambled over to Mat #10, I saw that my opponent was already warmed up and on the mat. I stripped out of my street clothes, took off my wallet and my watch and went right on to the mat without any type of warmup. I apologized to my opponent and the referee and we started immediately. I was able to win on points, though I had an armbar locked pretty tight late in the match.
My arms and legs were now engorged in blood and I was in this weird condition of tired yet not warm. They gave me 5 minutes to recover/warm up before my semifinal match. I started strongly in this match, going up 2-0, but then my fatigue led to a strategic error which resulted in me losing by RNC. (For fight nerds, I will explain that I pulled guard against a guy who had no chance of taking me down. That's generally a really dumb idea.)
After another 5-minute rest I was now put into my match for the bronze medal. I'd watched this guy fight just before my semifinal match and he seemed like the best wrestler in the division. Even with this information, I was unable to stop his takedown. He got up on points early, but I was able to sweep him. I was up one advantage with 30 seconds left, and we both knew it.
What happens next is a bit of a blur to me. We both knew that he needed a takedown, and he came charging at me. I remember that I defended one takedown and that is when I received a sharp blow to the head that stunned me. He attempted another takedown (Cobra Kai coach Sim Go says it was a lateral drop) and he came up with his forehead smashing into my face. I was able to defend this takedown as well and hang on for the victory and the bronze medal.
But immediately after time expired I felt a great deal of discomfort and dropped to a knee. I remember the referee asking if I was okay. I remember other people on the sidelines telling me that I was bleeding. I remember despite my discomfort getting up so that the referee could officially raise my hand.
After the ref raised my hand, I fell to a knee again. The ref advised me to go to the medic's table, which I did. I recall that they asked me some basic questions like my name and where I was, and I was able to answer those. But I don't remember much after that. My next memory is hazy and it is of a walk out of the tournament area, running into JC Alvarado and some other familiar faces and saying incoherently to the medic, "I know him...I know him too, I think I've trained with him."
And I do not remember anything after that until I found myself in a stretcher, my feet and arms bound by straps and my neck in a cervical collar. I was told that someone had found me wandering aimlessly around the tournament area and that I had blacked out. Later Sim told me that he had a full conversation with me after the match, but I still don't remember any of that. It's a bit scary to think about how much time I lost in that period, and I don't even know how long I was out for.
After an hour or so, I was carted from the Mandalay to a nearby hospital, and kept there for a few hours. The doctor ordered a CAT scan which confirmed that there was no bleeding in the brain. Later on I would be told that there is virtually never bleeding in the brain and that this information is basically worthless: it means I wouldn't die in my sleep that night, but not much more. Everyone in my house made it very clear that even if I didn't feel the symptoms of the concussion that I should still be very conservative and take it easy. So basically for most of Saturday and Sunday (with the exception of the UFC 148 fights, of course) I locked myself in the darkest room of our house and listened to podcasts in the dark for as long as I could handle it.
As it turns out, "as long as I could handle it" wasn't very long at all. I spent four hours on Saturday morning in my solitary confinement and nearly had an emotional breakdown. I was advised to avoid both physical and mental stimulation until my symptoms subsided. But what is a human without mental and physical stimulation? A vegetable, basically. I also suffered some nightmares the first night which made me scared that this would be a recurring thing, but I haven't not gotten them since.
Physically after the first day I've mostly felt well. My headaches are pretty occasional at this point and usually triggered by either motion or extended periods of visual focus (e.g. while driving or using my phone). I was able to play Day 1C of the main event and it wasn't too bad, although I found the announcements over the loudspeaker to be tremendously loud and so I have purchased some hearing protection (the kind that gun enthusiasts use) for Day 2. I feel as though I am recovering well, but everyone around me is quick to point out that the nasty part about concussions is that one day you can feel just fine, and then the symptoms come on with a vengeance.
I'm sure many people will ask what this, my first concussion/scary experience, means for my MMA career. I suppose that the experience has made the dangers of fighting a little bit more real, but it's also not as though I didn't know that this was a potentially dangerous sport. For now, I still love the sport and plan to continue with it. If I suffer more concussions or if I feel my mental acuity becomes compromised, then obviously I'll re-evaluate. I've had a lot of people tell me not to participate in the sport, but I do wonder whether these people would feel the same way if I were a skier or a hockey player, where the concussion/injury risks are similar but not as in-your-face as MMA or boxing. Life comes with risks and everyone has to decide for themselves what level of risk is acceptable. A life with no risk at all is certainly not one that I want to live.
But for this week, I'll try to spend a little less time in the ring and a little more time in my dark, quiet room. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valour.