Ramiz Brahimaj Discusses Spinal Injury Recovery Before UFC Comeback

Ramiz Brahimaj’s journey back from a severe spinal injury is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

He’s been out of the game since clinching a submission victory over Michael Gilmore in early 2022. A neck injury yanked him out of a scheduled bout against Carlston Harris in February 2023. Now, at 31, he’s gearing up for a comeback against Themba Gorimbo at UFC Fight Night 241 this Saturday. His road to recovery was shared in a candid chat with MMAMania.com.

Brahimaj opened up about the ordeal. “I had a brachial plexus injury and an injury to my C-5 from spinal stenosis and disc injuries. It set me back a lot, man. I dealt with a lot of different things, and it’s pretty messy when that stuff happens. So, for about two to three months, I really had limited function and ability in my arm, and it kept happening. So, it sucked, but I’m here, I’m happy.”

The injury struck during wrestling drills. Initially, surgery seemed the only option, as suggested by most doctors he consulted. “Man, I was wrestling… and it just happened,” Brahimaj recounted. He saw four doctors, three of whom pushed for surgery. “They wanted to do a fusion and use an artificial disc. I heard a lot of different things. And there was nothing that I wanted to hear… I remember I told them, I was like, ‘Listen, I’m 30 years old. I’m not going to do this — there’s no way I’m going to put myself through surgery and set myself back so much. I’m going to find a way to recover and do it without surgery.’”

Instead, Brahimaj dove deep into understanding his injury. He eventually found a doctor in Dallas who prioritized intense physiotherapy over surgery. “So, I started to really deep dive into the world of the spine, C-5 and all about the neck and everything,” he said. “The doctor that I actually met up with here in Dallas, an amazing doctor, assured me that his last plan was going to be for me to go under the knife. He said, ‘We’re gonna do a lot of rigorous physical therapy. It’s going take you awhile, but I just need you to trust me.’ He was helping me as I was doing my own research on this stuff on the brachial plexus and everything. It took a while, but I think it was the right choice that I made. And the function of my arm and the function of my body… everything is back. To me, it’s miraculous, you know, it’s extremely miraculous.”

During the grueling recovery, Brahimaj even considered hanging up his gloves. “I had a whole letter written,” he admitted. He looked back at that letter with disdain, reflecting on the dark times. “I looked at that letter two weeks ago in disgust because looking back now, you know, it was gloomy. It was dark last year like — I did not know what was going to happen. I would make progress, and then there would be days where I’d wake up, and I’m like, ‘F—k, I don’t feel better. I just felt like I was constantly just trying to find something to be buoyant. Because during that time, I did feel like I was drowning, but I really think it had happened. It made me so much mentally stronger. That it just opened my eyes to a lot of things.”

His passion for the sport and camaraderie with his teammates played a pivotal role in his perseverance. “I need you to understand that through physical therapy, through spinal injections, trigger point injections, it was a slow process, man. It tried my patience a lot,” he shared. This ordeal reignited his love and respect for his profession. “It just gave me a newfound love and respect for my job. And, you know, I think I took fighting for granted, man, and it humbled me and woke me up.”

Brahimaj’s gratitude extends beyond the octagon. “It just made me really appreciative of the things that I have, and most important — outside of fighting — the body and the physical attributes that I’ve been fortunate to have been blessed with.”

The fighter recalled a particularly low point. “I was not able to pull a five-pound band for like two months. I went from getting ready to fight Carlston Harris, and I was very strong that camp physically. I think I was the strongest I had ever been proud of at that point. And within a week, I’ll never forget, everything just deteriorated. I was legitimately brought to my knees. It was one of the most sobering moments. But, I think just being around the team — coach Sayif Saud, being around fights and fighters — is what saved me, in essence. As cliche as it sounds, it saved my life.”

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