A gash nearly an inch deep ran from eyebrow to eyebrow across the bridge of his nose and his eyes were covered in blood. His shoulder was separated and arm limp after he was on the painful end of a takedown for one of the rare times in his life. The opponent was the impregnable, insuperable and undefeated Jon Jones, pounding holes in his face for more than minute.
Matt Hamill quit? If you thought that watching December’s Ultimate Finale you know nothing about the man’s will to win. Hearing impaired all his life, Hamill’s had to claw his way through the collegiate ranks – he left Purdue University after one season for the tiny Rochester Institute of Technology because the interpreting services promised by the larger program weren’t adequate, whereas RIT had a full-time interpreter at every practice and competition – and Mixed Martial Arts. Jones became the first to take Hamill down in his 10 pro fights, had him pinned and was beating him to smithereens before he was tagged with a disqualification loss due to an illegal 12-to-6 elbow.
It was a shock to the system, but an experience Hamill didn’t want to end. It wasn’t on his terms and when life has gone against the grain, Hamill has always made it work to his advantage.
“I was so disappointed with how the fight went, but you can’t predict injuries,” Hamill told Heavy.com. “If it was up to me I would have kept going once I was able to pop my shoulder in and clean the blood off my eyes, but that’s what happens in MMA.”
Hamill suffered a Grade 2 shoulder separation and dislocation which kept him from a full training camp until mid-March. At the start of his therapy he was unable to bench press 135 pounds or do push-ups. Twelve weeks later he was pressing 275 in sets of 12 and seven days before a critical showdown against Keith Jardine at Saturday’s Ultimate Finale he’s at virtually 100 percent capacity.
The Hammer’s been humbled before. A disputed decision cost him a victory over Michael Bisping in 2007 and a year later he was stopped by Rich Franklin in what he considers the lowest point of his career. The loss to Franklin forced Hamill to go back to the beginning and refocus his training on boosting his killer instinct. The “victory” over Jones was a wake-up call that told him around every corner there will be a new young gun waiting to take him out.
Hamill is no longer humbled. He is very angry.