Santiago Ponzinibbio is the quintessential form of a fighter who was emerging at a rapid pace and suddenly fell apart on account of a health scare. The fighter reveals his struggle upon recovering from a major health scare.
In 2018, when Santiago attained his seventh straight win at the main event of a weekly fight night, via KO, the title shot looked imminent. But, now two years have gone by and yet he is not scheduled to fight anytime soon. If anything that could depict his plight, then it would his rank. The fighter was once No.7 in the welterweight division and is now unranked without consuming a loss.
Santiago Ponzinibbio’s Excruciating Recovery
Detailing his ordeal to MMA Fighting, the fighter said, “For me, it’s very tough. The People don’t know the truth. The people don’t really know the truth. When everything happened, it’s a little weird and I don’t talk too much. It was very complicated.
“It started with an infection inside my body and then it goes to my blood. I’ve got two different kinds of bacterial infections. It was (an) epidemic (a type of bacteria) and the other was pseudomonas, [a bacteria frequently found in water and certain plant seeds]. This is a more complicated bacteria. I had two in my body. I spent eight days in the hospital.”
After spending considerable time in the hospital, Santiago was discharged but soon had to return in order on account of 103-degree fever.
“It was three days to finish the treatment, and then I started with a fever,” Panzinibbio said. “I have two doctors, my general doctor and my (infectious disease) doctor. I go to him, I have a fever, that’s normal? He told me not at all, go to the hospital right now. I go to the hospital and they make a couple tests.
“I stayed 10 days more in the hospital. They couldn’t bring my fever down. They switched my medications, they gave me a lot of different medication. I went back home, still with the PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter) and more medication. For a couple, maybe two months more.”
‘Maybe you can’t fight again’
After recuperating, Santiago finally returned to training and went to Las Vegas to begin a fresh chapter, which involved, rehabilitation under the watchful eye of coaches, trainers, and therapists at the UFC Performance Institute. However, he soon realiized there’s a long way to go.
“I go to Vegas and I go to a lot of PT (physical therapy), twice a day, for five weeks,” Ponzinibbio said. “We don’t see nothing is getting better. Heather (Linden) at the UFC PI told me, ‘This is not normal at all.’ I was still using very strong anti-inflammatory. It’s almost November, I started in May and I’m still using this anti-inflammatory (medicine).
“We go to get an MRI. A couple of days after that, they called me into a separate room and said, ‘Listen, the MRI said you have an infection in the bone, it’s very dangerous and maybe you can’t fight again.’ The doctor said that you have an infection in your bone and they said this is very dangerous. Maybe you can’t fight again.”
After learning that he may not be able to fight again, Panzinibbio did not lose hope and flew to Florida to visit the doctors for a second opinion and a possible treatment.
“The inflammation in my ligaments is coming from arthritis,” Ponzinibbio revealed. “End of November, I go to the rheumatologist, they give me a lot of protocols and I start to get back to normal. Until this, I lost six months. It was very bad.
“After that, with the treatment, with the rheumatologist, a lot of different antibiotics, and my body started coming back. The PT started to make it work. Before that, my ligaments were very swollen. I lost all my muscle, that’s very crazy. After that, I started to improve.”
In the interview, he reflected on what he has endured in several months.
“They told me I might not be able to fight again in my life,” he said. “It started in 2019. I dreamed about fighting for the belt. The people in the UFC told me to go win one more fight and then I can go for the belt. I was so excited. A couple months after, I’m in the hospital and people didn’t understand what was happening to me. At one point, I lost 30 pounds. It was very bad, It was very scary.
“It was very, very crazy and very bad. I had a very complicated case. It was very tough on me. I went from one opportunity where I was going to live my dream to win the belt and a couple of months after that, I’m fighting for my life. I can’t lie, I was very scared.”
Return To The Octagon
After showcasing all the endurance outside maybe the time has come to do the same inside, as much for the delight of the enthusiasts who want to see him compete again, it seems like the 34-year-old is done sparring with the thought of enduring a career-threatening injury and is now looking for a way back in the Octagon.
“Some guys that were behind me in the rankings like Leon Edwards, they are now in front of me,” Ponzinibbio said. “I started to lose opportunities. That’s very bad. I was No. 7 in the rankings and I know the rankings don’t make a lot of sense but they removed me. I worked so hard for that.
“After a lot of work, after a lot of ups and downs, after this whole crazy thing, thank god, I am healthy. I’m very excited to come back. I’m very excited to show the world. The first reason I did this is because I love it. This is my dream. I feel good. I’m back in shape. I’m very excited to be back.”
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