Have you ever stopped to think about how important the value of a second could be, how one second could change the outcome of an event? A split second could be the difference between hitting the game-winning home run or striking out to end the game, between winning the race and coming in dead last, between hitting a 3-point buzzer beater or losing by 2, between winning by submission or losing by decision. Professional lightweight MMA fighter, Keith Miner, knows the importance of a second all too well.
It was May 8, 2000, and Miner was doing his everyday normal routine working for a company clearing the power lines, chipping brush on a steep hill. However, Miner’s life would change in a split second. As Miner was proceeding to feed the wood through the chipper, another worker hopped in the truck that the chipper was connected to and moved it without notifying Miner. Not realizing that the chipper was moving, Miner continued feeding the branches into the chipper, which would eventually cause the mangling of his right arm.
“Another second and I would’ve got away, another second before and the truck would’ve moved up without me even getting the branches to it”, said Miner. “Due to the steepness of the hill, I couldn’t get my legs out from in front of me to catch my balance, and I fell into the chute of the chipper.”
“I got pulled into the teeth throughout the bat, and I had thought it got my left hand, and as I yanked away my left hand, it had already started to crush down on my right hand.”
Miner was helpless as the two powerful rollers, weighing close to 200lbs each, were clamping down his right arm sucking him into the blade of the chipper. Not even a man four times his size would’ve been able to force his way out of this horrifying predicament.
“It pulled me in and started to cut my hand and to my wrist”, said Miner. “Luckily, I was able to whip it (my arm) enough that when the rollers got to my elbow, I bent my arm, and then it flipped me upside down. It did a lot of damage, tore a lot of muscles from my neck and butt.”
Fortunately, another co-worker who was getting a rake couldn’t see Miner anymore. Realizing what was happening, he jumped into action, hitting the reverse bar on the side of the chipper, which “spit” Miner back out. However, it was too late; the damage had already been done.
“I came out and my hand was already gone,” said Miner. “You could see the inside, the two bones and this one piece of skin kind of hanging.”
Miner, losing a tremendous amount of blood, would somehow pull himself together finding the strength to make his way up the hill and get help. For someone who was never a big believer in God, Miner doesn’t feel that he would have made it if it wasn’t for a higher power.
“I wasn’t a believer then. I wasn’t a Christian person then,” said Miner. “But, it wasn’t under my power that got me up that hill.”
Reaching the top of the hill, Miner signaled the foreman who got Miner to a hospital where he was life-flighted to another hospital. He was kept there for four days, undergoing two surgeries to repair what they could. Going forward, it wouldn’t be easy for Miner. He was, as Miner put it, a “conceited little punk” 19 year old kid who thought he was invincible, and was now facing a life-altering experience. Miner would fall into a deep depression, having suicidal thoughts at times, not being able to face the change.
“My self-confidence was just rocked,, said Miner. “You know it was hard to look in the mirror anymore. Between that and having to learn to do everything left-handed, it was just frustrating.”
“I had a little notebook that I remember to this day, I would lock myself in my room, and I would just start writing my ABC’s, learning how to write all over again, learning how to function as a left-handed human being. I remember my brother who is left-handed would give me a lot of tips to help me out, but it was tough."
Miner not only figured out how to function as a left-handed human being in a right-handed world, but over time excelled at it. A couple years after the accident, Miner moved to Texas allowing him to get away from the memories of the accident, which helped him find himself again as a person and an athlete.
“Five years after my accident, I finally picked up a basketball again, finally picked up a football again,” said Miner. “What was crazy was that I was actually able to compete and still dribble and catch a football. It took me a while to dunk again, but I worked it and worked it, and next thing you know, I was able to dunk with my left hand again.”
With Miner’s confidence coming back, he kept moving forward, taking up jiu-jitsu. He didn’t have high expectations, but Miner quickly caught on and began beating upper belts, which transitioned into taking MMA classes, and soon after, Miner decided that this fighting thing was for him.
However, it wasn’t easy to find fights for Miner. For whatever reason, whether it was the stigma of having an amputee fighting or whether they thought Miner would get hurt, amateur organizations refused to give him a shot. Finally, Freestyle Cage Fighting set Miner up with a fight against Clayton Robinson, except this was a professional fight. He was able to get that fight and show that he could compete and hang in there; it was still tough for Miner to get consistent fights. Most of his fights have been on short notice and a lot of people won’t fight him because of his accident. There have been times when he thought about forgetting it and giving it all up, but Miner’s wife has always been by side keeping him focused.
“My wife is my biggest fan. She was pushing for it.”, said Miner. “There’s been times, I have actually wanted to walk away with the pain of the training camps on my body, and she’s actually the one that keeps me motivated.”
On Wednesday June 19, Miner (5-4) has the opportunity to show the whole world just how much motivation he has, as well as, the type of fighter and person that he is when he squares off against Damon Jackson (5-0) at Bellator 96 on Spike TV starting at 5pm.
Miner is humbled by the opportunity to fight for Bellator and showcase his talents on the big stage, but he accepts that he’ll never be talked about as one of the greatest fighters ever. For Miner, that’s the last thing he cares about.
“This is so much bigger than me,” Miner said. “There are so many troops coming back from war that I have met that have lost limbs, that have been through horrific things that make my accident look like nothing.”
“I’ve heard of them training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or just being in the gym. They may never fight, but if they ever do, I just hope that I can lay an easier path for them. Win or lose, my goal is to lay the foundation for other fighters but not just for fighters but for people in general who have been through something in their life that has knocked them down."
Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithMinerMMA
Thanks to author Paul Forlai of MVCmanagement.com.
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