While UFC flyweight Casey O’Neill celebrated International Fight Week this month with hoards of fans, she missed out on a key spot on UFC 276, one of the year’s biggest MMA events.
Casey was booked against former flyweight title challenger Jessica Eye after four straight wins in the UFC and began her training camp last spring. However, an incising knee injury just days after the bout was finalized ruled out any possibility of her fighting on the card. In an interview with The AllStar, the flyweight prospect shed more light on the experience of the injury, recovery, and a potential timeline for a return.
Recounting the injury, O’Neill said, “I think I was like three months out from the fight, so I had a long camp once again. And I was just slowly getting into the swing of things and it was actually maybe my second sparring session since I heard about the fight, and I was at the gym and sparring with another girl who I always spar with.
“She went for a takedown and I was up against the fence, and the way that my knee fell sort of made my knee go backwards and like hyperextend and I heard this super loud pop. And I thought, no way that was me, like I’ve never heard anything like that so, I didn’t think that was me but, thirty seconds later my whole leg started burning. I tried to stand up, and I fell over. I realized pretty quickly that something was going on with my knee I headed over to the [UFC Performance Institute], and they seemed to be pretty worried too. The next morning, I got an MRI and found out that I had completely tore my ACL.”
O’Neill’s stubborn passion for fighting even drove her to try to find a doctor that would sign off to let her compete at UFC 276, but no reasonable medical professional would do so. In the meantime, She has been slowing down life and is nine weeks into rehab for the knee, which required surgery.
The UFC Performance Institute created a physical therapy plan for O’Neill, who stated that she struggles not rushing the process: “the PI’s been great for me, having people that know that what they’re talking about and have gone through a million previous ACLs in MMA, so I felt pretty confident with them…I had surgery on the Wednesday, and I had physical therapy on the Friday…I think I’m doing like three or four hours a day on just improving my knee…I’m trying to listen to them and take it slow so that I don’t have to go through this again…I can’t remember the last time I had three months off from training so I’m dying to get punched in the face again.”
The Scottish-Australian said she’s currently hitting the right benchmarks for a complete recovery and wants to return as soon as possible. O’Neill gave two timelines for a UFC comeback: “If everything goes well, I should be back to striking next month..and then two months after that back to full MMA drilling, and then two months after that, it’s wrestling and jiujitsu….I’m on a more aggressive timeline in my own head…I’d say I’m back to fully training or fully drilling by September, and then back to live end of October, start of November, and then fighting in February…I want to get back in the cage by December, but that’s pushing it.”
The Xtreme Couture representative understands that the division will look much different when she returns, but has the desired opponent that she knows will excite fans: “I want to fight Maycee Barber, I feel like me and her would be a really, really good fight…We’re two up-and-comers and I feel like it would be a great fight…Maycee Barber would be a fun one and I keep asking for it too”.