Santiago Ponzinibbio reports a terrible health fear that doctors said could end his career

When Santiago Ponzinibbio secured his seventh consecutive UFC win, he was convinced that yet another victory would finally allow him to dispute the welterweight title.

More than two years later, the Argentine candidate did not set foot in the octagon because of a health scare that made doctors fear that his career would end and his life would be at risk.

According to Ponzinibbio, he was relatively quiet about the whole ordeal because he was facing a harsh reality in which fighting might no longer be an option for him. Despite all doubts about his position in the category or when he could return to action, the 34-year-old veteran was wondering if he had a chance to fight again.

“For me it is very difficult,” Ponzinibbio told MMA Fighting. “People don’t know the truth. People don’t really know the truth. When everything happened, it was a little strange and I don’t say much. It was very complicated.

“It started with an infection inside my body and then it goes into my blood. I have two different types of bacterial infections. that was [an] Epidemic [type of bacteria] and the other was pseudomonas, [a bacteria frequently found in water and certain plant seeds]. This is a more complicated bacterium. I had two in my body. I spent eight days in the hospital. “

After an initial diagnosis and treatment along with his hospitalization, Ponzinibbio was discharged, but was losing weight. He then developed a fever of 103 degrees that panicked his doctors.

“It took three days to finish the treatment and I started with a fever”, explains Ponzinibbio. “I have two doctors, my general practitioner and my [infectious disease] doctor. I’m going with him, I have a fever, is this normal? He told me no, go to the hospital now. I go to the hospital and they do some tests.

“I stayed another 10 days in the hospital. They failed to lower my fever. They changed my medications. They gave me many different drugs. I returned home, still with the PICC line [peripherally inserted central catheter] and more medication. For a couple, maybe two more months. “

Finally, after finishing the last round of medication, Ponzinibbio received a certificate of good health, which allowed him to return to training.

He had already been forced to leave the gym during this ordeal, so Ponzinibbio took a trip to Las Vegas to begin his rehabilitation under the watchful eye of coaches, coaches and therapists at the UFC Performance Institute.

Unfortunately, he soon discovered that his body was not recovering its strength, despite the intense physical therapy sessions he was doing. In fact, Ponzinibbio was beginning to feel even more pain in his body, seeing no results after he worked out again.

“I’m going to Vegas and I’m going to [physical therapy] – a lot of PT, twice a day, for five weeks ”, said Ponzinibbio. “We don’t see that anything is improving. Heather [Linden] At UFC, PI said to me, ‘This is not normal at all.’ I was still using a very strong anti-inflammatory. It’s almost November, I started in May and I’m still using this anti-inflammatory [medicine].

“We are going to do an MRI. A few days later, they called me to a separate room and said, ‘Listen, the MRI said that you have a bone infection, it is very dangerous and you may not be able to fight again.’ The doctor said that you have a bone infection and they said that this is very dangerous. Maybe you can’t fight again. “

Ponzinibbio had taken many hits during his career. No one hit you harder than hearing that your career could be over.

After that diagnosis, he flew back home to Florida, where he visited his own doctor before being referred to a rheumatologist, a doctor specializing in the diagnosis of arthritis, as well as other diseases of the bones, muscles and joints.

“The inflammation in my ligaments comes from arthritis,” revealed Ponzinibbio. “At the end of November, I go to the rheumatologist, they give me many protocols and I start to return to normal. Until then, I lost six months. It was really bad.

“After that, with the treatment, with the rheumatologist, many different antibiotics, and my body started to come back. The PT started to work. Before that, my ligaments were very swollen. I lost all my muscles, this is very crazy. After that, I started to improve. “

It was a roller coaster ride, both physically and emotionally. Ponzinibbio’s body transformed from an athlete who had become one of the most feared strikers of the entire UFC cast into a fragile civilian. Add to that, your mind was riddled with questions about what the future would hold if fighting was no longer a possibility.

“They told me that I might not be able to fight again in life,” he said. “It started in 2019. I dreamed of fighting for the belt. The UFC people told me to win another fight and then I’ll go for the belt. I was so excited. A few months later, I am in the hospital and people did not understand what was happening to me. At one point, I lost 30 pounds. It was really bad. It was very scary.

“It was really, really crazy and really bad. I had a very complicated case. It was very difficult for me. I left an opportunity where I would live my dream of winning the belt and a few months later, I am fighting for my life. I can’t lie, I was too scared. “

Ponzinibbio spent most of 2019 dealing with doctors, hospitalizations and physical therapy while trying to save his career. As soon as he finally received the correct diagnosis, the first Ultimate Fighter: Brazil contender returned to the gym. But the long way to get into a fight still had to be done.

“I went back to the gym around December, but it certainly wasn’t normal,” said Ponzinibbio. “I still had to do a lot of PT, a lot of conditioning exercise. After a big injury, it’s a process until you get back to normal. It was very hard work.

Having been out of action for over two years, the welterweight division moved on without Ponzinibbio. He lost his position in the ranking and, despite a sequence of seven consecutive victories, Ponzinibbio knows that one more victory will no longer guarantee the title dispute.

While this is certainly a difficult pill to swallow, Ponzinibbio is ready to work to regain the position he once occupied, and this begins with his return in January as part of a trio of events being held in Abu Dhabi.

“Some guys who were behind me in the ranking, like Leon Edwards, are now in front of me,” said Ponzinibbio. “I started to miss opportunities. This is very bad. I was in seventh place in the ranking and I know that the rankings don’t make much sense, but they removed me. I worked so hard for this.

“After a lot of work, many ups and downs, after all this madness, thank God I am healthy. I’m really excited to be back. I am very excited to show the world. The first reason I did it is because I love it. This is my dream. I feel good. I’m back in shape. I’m really excited to be back. “