636 days. That's how long it will be between fights for Goran Reljic when he makes his return against C.B. Dollaway at UFC 110 on Feb. 20 at the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia.
“I had a long layoff,” Reljic told the Sherdog Radio Network's “Beatdown” show recently. “I had surgery on my back and I had some other issues in my life. Now everything is taken care of and I'm back.”
But it's not nearly as simple as the 25-year-old Croatian makes it sound. A herniated disc put the undefeated fighter on the shelf following his Octagon debut against Wilson Gouveia at UFC 84 in May 2008. Further complications put Reljic at an even greater risk.
“I've been doing a lot of physical therapy since the surgery and getting my body back into shape,” Reljic said. “Doctors actually told me I'll never fight again, but I love to prove people wrong and now I'm back. I can't wait to step inside and fight again.”
If Reljic seems a bit dismissive about his whole ordeal it's because he was never really worried about it. In fact, if anything, he was defiant.
“I said to them, ‘I'm going to show you who's not going to be capable of coming back to the sport. I'm going to show you that you're wrong.’” Said Reljic. “I said (that) to them in their face. I told them I'm going to prove you wrong and that's what I did. Look where I am now. I'm coming back. I feel great. I have a heart. I never quit and I proved them all wrong.”
While on hiatus back in his homeland, Reljic re-evaluated his regime. He focused on his diet, stretching, yoga, and meditation. He also contemplated his UFC debut, which he wasn’t particularly pleased with technically.
“People thought I was a standup fighter when I first showed up in the UFC,” Reljic said, “I'm not. I'm a grappler. I came from a jiu-jitsu background. I've been working on my wrestling a lot, and like I said, you've got to work for everything. Absolutely everything. You can never say, ‘I have a good standup; I'm going to do wrestling. I don't need to do standup anymore.’ Or ‘I'm going to do jiu-jitsu and I'm not going to do standup.’ You have to improve on everything and that's the way it goes.”
Reljic sees no other option as a mixed martial artist.
“I think that's the way you have to think,” said Reljic. “I think that a man needs to think like that. I think you have to be open-minded and I think you have to look at the things in a way that you always can improve. You have to be ever improving and ever evolving. Quite frankly, in MMA, if you don't think like that, you're not for that. That's the attitude you got to have.”
In Dollaway, Reljic sees a well-rounded challenger.
“C.B. is a great fighter,” said Reljic. “He's a great wrestler. He has solid standup skills as well. I think he mixes it up all together pretty good. I just think we're going to put on a great show for the crowd and I hope everybody's going to see what they expect and everybody's going to be satisfied.”
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