Ramiz Brahimaj picked up his first UFC win in August, but it was a wild ride to get it.
If you think Brahimaj almost getting his ear torn off the side of his head in his UFC debut was crazy, how about finding out you have cancer before your chance to step into the biggest fight promotion? Yeah, that’s what Brahimaj went through the past two years, so getting his first UFC to win at UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs. Gastelum against Sasha Palatnikov was a huge deal.
“This win that I got means the world to me just because of how much perseverance and mental toughness was required of it… It’s crazy, you know. A lot of people don’t really understand just how crazy my journey has been. People tend to forget that before I fought Max [Griffin], I came off a two-year layoff, and coming off surgery,” Brahimaj told Cageside Press in an exclusive interview. “I mean, it’s one of the greatest feelings I think I’ve felt in my entire career. That win meant so much to me because of everything I had to go through.”
“I was in the blue corner again, wore red shorts, I was in the same exact room when I fought Max Griffin. It was a growing experience because people can be taken back to those memories, and they got to fight those demons, and sometimes people don’t do too good. But when I went to the hotel room, I was in the same exact hotel room as last time, and all these negative thoughts rush in, they fuck with you, it really does fuck with you a lot because last time I was here, shit went sour real quick. I just told myself, it’s a different day and age, we’re not in the same year anymore, not the same month or day, I’m not even the same Ramiz anymore. It was a big growing experience,” Brahimaj said.
Before his UFC debut, Brahimaj was supposed to compete on season three of Dana White’s Contender Series against another really hot prospect, Miguel Baeza, in the main event. A week before the fight, Brahimaj pulled out. Doctors had discovered a tumor behind his eye.
“It was crazy, man. It’s one of those things that I never in my wildest dreams thought was there, right? I didn’t have blurred vision, I didn’t even have headaches,” Brahimaj said. “When they found it, I was like ‘WHAT? Are you sure you got the right guy?’ I remember when I got the call from the UFC medical team. They emailed me, and then they called me and said I needed to see a neurologist. I was freaking out. I remember the whole night I couldn’t sleep and was thinking, what the hell did they find? Am I good? Is there something in my brain that I need to worry about?”
“I ended up going to see the neurologist and then a neurosurgeon because there was a tumor, and I remember I was like ‘Dude, What?. So when they found it and told me about it, I was at a loss for words because this could be the end of my journey. This is it. And then I thought about all of the fights that I had, and the doctor told me that had it ruptured, I would have gone blind in my left eye. The pressure would have popped my eye.”
The welterweight fighter recalls going to the Dana White’s Contender Series event that he was supposed to headline because his teammate Miles Johns was on it. In the main event, light heavyweight fighter Alton Cunningham fractured his orbital during the first exchange.
“It’s insanity because that was supposed to be in the main event,” Brahimaj said.
Brahimaj was originally expected to debut in the UFC against Takashi Sato at UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Hooker, but again, he was hit with more bad news. Literally less than 24 hours before the weigh-ins, one of his cornermen tested positive for COVID-19.
When he got the news, Brahimaj had to think back and wonder if he’d walked under a ladder as a kid, or come across a black cat by accident. He just had to think, ‘what did I do?’
Of course, in his UFC debut, he suffered a gruesome ear injury which resulted in his ear almost being torn off his head.
Luck was finally on his side in August, however, as he picked up his long-awaited first UFC win. He kept his 100% rate and picked another first-round submission, something he has eight of.
“I think it was a good performance. I’m always hard on myself, man. Even if I get a quick finish, if I pitch a shutdown, I’ll always find something to be critical about, something to go back to work on. If I could make every performance similar to this one, I would love to,” Brahimaj laughed.
You can watch the rest of the interview above, where Ramiz Brahimaj talks about his win, what is next, his ear injury, his journey, and so much more.