It’s been a long road back to competition for “Jessy Jess,” a.k.a. Jessica-Rose Clark.
The popular Australian bantamweight has been on the shelf for some time, having last fought in September 2020. Though she won that battle, securing a TKO of Sarah Alpar, she was a casualty of war, tearing her ACL in the process.
“It almost doesn’t feel real. This is also a super-long camp, so it just felt like it was the Never-Ending Story, it’s just been an eternal camp,” Clark (10-6, 1NC) said ahead of her return at UFC Vegas 41 this weekend, where she’ll face Joselyne Edwards. “I think going through rehab then jumping straight into a fight camp just made it feel like it’s been 12 months of getting ready, because I had to relearn a lot of stuff.”
Clark, unquestionably, is excited to be back, and excited to be on the main card at UFC Vegas 41. “I feel if I’d been on the main card last time, I would have gotten a bonus. But hopefully this time.”
As much as the road to recovery was a long one, Clark revealed that for her, it was easier than anticipated. “95% of the people I talked to were like ‘yeah it was terrible, recovery was terrible, I was bed-ridden for weeks,'” she explained. In stark contrast, “I was in the gym three days later. I was off crutches almost immediately, I had pain killers for two days, and I didn’t even feel like I needed the painkillers, and that’s why I stopped.”
Rehab allowed her to do more than just heal he knee. “Going through that rehab gave me the opportunity to focus on things that I think I neglect when I’m fully physically able,” observed Clark. “Like a lot of mobility, balance, strength work. Just all these things that kind of get pushed to the wayside when you’re focusing on kickboxing, boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu.”
The goal, she added, was to come back “more athletic than I was before I had surgery, and that’s 100% how I feel.”
With all that said, fighting in fits and starts over the past few years has not been a fun experience. “I’m so f*cking frustrated dude. Just because, obviously, I spent most of 2019 on the shelf, and then I got injured again in 2020. I’m just having these year, year and a half long blocks and it sucks. I’m a full time athlete and I can’t even do my job full time.”
The latest setback, she added, “really highlighted how mortal I am within this sport. How quickly my job could be taken away from me, based on someone else’s actions, not even necessarily anything I do myself.” One she realized that her whole life could be taken away in an instant, Clark continued, “it really allowed me to start working on things in the background, and things I can do once I finish from fighting.”
“I have long-term goals now that maybe I didn’t have before this injury.”
Watch the full UFC Vegas 41 media day appearance by Jessica-Rose Clark above. More coverage can be found below. The event takes place this Saturday, October 23 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, NV.