Insult to injury

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Mitch Clarke loses his first UFC match via shoulder injury

Ed Kapp
Sports Writer

Mitch Clarke – who has been competing as a professional mixed martial artist since the summer of 2007 – had long dreamt of showcasing his talents in the UFC.

It’s difficult to imagine, though, that the Saskatoon product envisioned his first foray in the pinnacle of the sport playing out as it did.

Three weeks away from making his long-awaited Octagon debut against John Cholish at UFC 140 in December, the 26-year-old suffered an injury while training at the University of Alberta.

“I was wrestling … and there was one more five-minute go before the practice was over – that’s the way it always is – [and] I didn’t have a partner, so I went with one of the heavyweights,” explained Clarke.

“I was able to get a throw on him, when we stood up, he tried to throw me back and when I stopped the initial throw, he basically tried to force it with his weight and we both fell with his weight landing on me. When I landed, I felt my shoulder separate. It began to swell at the sight pretty much right away. I went to the doctor the next morning and he said I had a second-degree separation … I tried to not take too many anti-inflammatories – as it caused my weight to go up – and had trouble wrestling for the rest of the training camp or even throwing a hook.”

Instead of removing himself from his first match inside the octagon – “I hate pulling out of fights and I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity,” he offered – Clarke went ahead with the bout as scheduled.

As it turned out, Clarke ended up paying for his decision on fight night.

“When I got taken down in the second round, I posted on the arm that I hurt and felt the shoulder separate again,” Clarke explained. “I hurt it a bit in the first [round] when I grabbed a guillotine [choke]; my shoulder felt like it was coming apart. It felt like when you rip a chicken breast a part for cooking, except it felt that way in my shoulder.”

Ultimately, Clarke would go on to be defeated by Cholish, a student of the legendary Renzo Gracie, with a little more than 30 seconds remaining in the second round of action.

While it would be easy – and perhaps appropriate – to say that Clarke’s dream of competing in the UFC, in many ways, turned into a nightmare, the UFC lightweight has chosen to use his injury and subsequent defeat as a learning experience.

“Most of the training went well,” Clarke noted. “I learned a lot of new things and trained hard. Next time, though, I will try to have more fun in the training and with the whole experience … Coach cohesiveness is key for the next fight. Belief in one’s self is another key. At times, I didn’t know if I belonged in the top stage – that and the haters coming out of woodwork to tell me that, as well – made the whole process harder.

“When I believe in myself, I know I can compete at the highest level.”

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