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One year after freak injury, it's finally showtime for Drakkar Klose

Lightweight thrilled to finally make his return at Saturday's UFC on ESPN 34.
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No one knows a parent better than their child. So two-year-old Kingston Klose knew something wasn't right when his dad, Drakkar Klose, returned home from what should have been a fight with Jeremy Stephens in April of last year.

"He's pretty smart," said the proud papa. "When I got home, he was really caring – he was like, ‘Daddy got hurt.' So he understands the things I go through, and that made me sad that he realized I was hurt."

Getting hurt in a prizefight is part of the gig for the 34-year-old Michigan native. Getting sidelined by injury on weigh-in day? That's not part of the plan.

"I signed a contract to fight Saturday, not Friday," said Klose. "That's the last thing I wanted to do is be touched."

Yet as Klose and Stephens squared off in Las Vegas the day before their bout, Klose got shoved by his opponent so hard that he suffered a concussion and a cervical sprain of the neck, forcing him out of the bout. It's said that the punch you don't see is the one that gets you. Now you can add shoves to that list.

"I was one of the last people to weigh in, so I only had a little bit of water in my body," Klose recalls. "When you cut a lot of weight and you're not expecting to be pushed, weird things happen, and it happened, and it just sucks. When I was going home, I was thinking about my son a lot and just hoping that I was the same."

In any contact sport, it can be something unexpected happening at the wrong place and the wrong time that can alter or end a career. Klose (11-2-1 MMA, 5-2 UFC) lost a major fight for his career development a year ago, but as he prepares for his return on Saturday at UFC on ESPN 34 against Brandon Jenkins (15-8 MMA, 0-1 UFC), he didn't lose what he loves to do, which was a thought as he recovered from his injuries.

"I did think about that at one point," he said. "I train so hard to fight and I've never really pulled out of fights besides this one. And all the backlash I got on the internet from all these people...words get to you."

I remind Klose that he should never read the comments section. He laughs, sheepishly admitting that while he does read that section, he hasn't been paying attention to what's been going on in the lightweight division he competes in since his last bout against Beneil Dariush in March 2020. 

"To be honest, I really don't try to pay attention to what's going on in the division," he said. "I'm just gonna continue to win, and when my time comes, go in there and do what I have to do. It's all about timing. God put me in this position to be on the sidelines and think about things in life, and he'll put me in the position to where if he wants me to get that belt, I'll get it."

Klose has that potential. He won three straight in 2018-19, and was on the verge of stopping Dariush before getting caught and finished in a wild UFC 248 bout that would have won "Fight of the Night" honors on any other card than the one that saw one of the sport's greatest bouts between Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

"I was mad," he laughs. "I was like, ‘Why did they have to be on the card?' But you know what really bothers me? They always post that Beneil fight every year, the same day, two days before my birthday, so I always have a bad birthday."

Klose chuckles, and despite all the craziness and questions of the last year, he's in a good place. He's got Kingston, he's got his lady, fellow UFC fighter Cortney Casey, and he's happy in the gym with his MMA Lab squad after a short break from the John Crouch-led team.

"John Crouch and (former UFC lightweight champion) Benson (Henderson) and all them, they were there since Day One," said Klose. "They got me to the point where I'm at, and I kinda turned my back on them. But I had to man up and apologize and I realized that. Some men, they think they're too strong and they can do everything on their own, but I had to admit to Crouch that I was in the wrong. You live and learn, and as I get older, you realize things. I'm happy and I'm in a good spot right now. And whatever happens in fighting, I know it's gonna be good because I got my family back in my life."

This weekend, he finally gets to throw hands again. And that's what he missed the most.

"Competing is something I did my whole life," Klose said. "Just getting in there with another person and seeing who's the best, that's what I really missed. When I'm done with this, I don't know what I'm gonna do with myself because I'm so addicted to competing. I compete with Cortney every day about the smallest things around the house (Laughs), so that's what I missed - getting in there and showcasing my talents.

"And I'm glad that there are a lot of people supporting me," he continues. "When I step in that cage, I always think about everyone and the people who helped me get to where I'm at, and I just can't wait to go out there and show them that I'm a good guy to support and just leave it all on the line for them and put on a good show."

On Saturday. Not Friday.

This story first published at UFC.com.