Making It Count

It’s March. It’s more than three months after the fateful leg break Corey Hill received while fi ghting Dale Hartt in UFC Fight Night 16 in Fayetteville, N.C. He still can’t bring himself to watch the video that’s making the rounds on the Internet.

Not that it matters much to Hill. The sixfoot- four, 155 pound, 30-year-old fi ghter from Spring Hill, Florida isn’t interested in looking back. He’s already looking ahead to a comeback. With pins in his leg, he’s already sparring and going to the mat at his home gym and with the guys at Gracie Tampa. “The guys here tell me to take it easy,” says Hill with a smile. “But if I can limp in here and spar, I’ll limp in here and spar.”

Hill isn’t one to take it easy. Not for long, anyway. He went through a blue period where he faced depression over his injury. But as soon as the pain subsided, he knew he had to start training again. “About February 10, two months after the injury, I started to work my upper body,” Hill says. “Even if I don’t fi ght again, I gotta get back into shape and I gotta rehab this leg so I can do some other job.”

His instructor, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt Rob Kahn, and his friends at Gracie Tampa are all behind him. But they do worry that Hill could be pushing it too hard.

“We’re working around his injury,” Kahn says. “Sometimes, we have to tell him to stop, to give it a rest. But I think we could see Corey fi ght again, maybe at the end of this year or in early 2010.”

The situation makes for some confl ict between Hill and his friends and family. Everyone wants him to be happy and to succeed in the UFC. They just don’t want to see him get hurt again. One of Hill’s sparring partners, Joe “Bamboo” Wissman, recalls watching the fi ght from ringside. He feels for his friend, and like Kahn, hopes Hill doesn’t push himself too hard.

“It was heartbreaking for me to see that happen,” Wissman says of the fi ght. “He didn’t deserve to have that happen to him. He may have come across as being really intense on UFC, but he’s really one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.

“I just hope he controls that competitive urge,” Wissman continues. “I’m concerned that he’s back so soon, but I’m glad he’s back.” Hill appreciates their concern, even if it is a little frustrating for him. It’s obvious that he cares about his teammates and they care about him.

“No one wants to re-injure me,” Hill says. “Sometimes I have to stand around and beg people to spar with me.” It’s been a hard road for Hill. He knows it won’t be easy balancing his competitive drive with the common sense and rest needed to make a complete recovery. The injury has also put a damper on his family’s lifestyle. Being out of work, they often have to scrape by.

But in spite of it all, he’s thankful for what he does have. “I’m without a job, but I have a home and some money,” he says with a smile. “But I can’t waste this God-given talent! I can’t throw that away! I’d feel like a coward if I didn’t try.

“I watch the news and I see how things are today,” he adds. “And I feel blessed. Each morning when I wake up, I feel blessed with another day.”

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