Kyle Daukaus tries to keep his eye injury under wraps.
Some people that he talks to have noticed that his left eye doesn’t blink as much as his right. He downplays the injury that caused it, as he does the three-month recovery and the skin graft required to treat it. Wait, what? A skin graft?
After suffering defeat at UFC Vegas 26 against Phil Hawes in May last year, Daukaus returned home to lick his wounds. Dealing with a loss can be mentally draining for most fighters, yet for Daukaus the biggest ordeal came from a cut to his left eye that got infected. It turned out to be one of the toughest challenges he’s faced in his 13-fight professional career.
“When I flew home, I was sick,” Daukaus told The AllStar. “I felt like I had the flu. I was in shivers. I waited until Wednesday to go to the hospital. I felt my eye was bruising up.
“I had a staph infection and I had strep. So the strep was actually eating my skin away. And it was eating my skin forward towards the outer eyelid as opposed to backward. It could have just shifted positions and went backwards and ate my eye.”
Daukaus went under the knife immediately to repair the damage already done, taking one part of the body to repair another. The procedure required grafting skin from his neck into his eyelid.
But with the possibility of the bacteria spreading and eating through his eye, Daukaus had a myriad of emotions swirling in his head. It was like a nightmare version of Back to the Future while sitting in the hospital bed.
“If I would have waited another day or two, they told me that my eye would have been gone,” he revealed. “I would have lost vision. That was another thing, I was in the hospital like shit, I don’t know if I’m ever going to fight again.”
“What am I going to do with my life? If it turns out that all of a sudden I can’t fight again, what am I going to do with my life? I had no idea. Was in a complete panic. I was depressed, I was upset.”
During the longest week of his life, the support system around him was the security blanket that was necessary to overcome every negative thought. In a sport where extreme ego and bravado is a prerequisite, being vulnerable is just as vital.
“You have to have people around you to help you,” he said. “My fiancee was with me in the hospital every single day. She was bringing me food. My family was with me, every single day checking up on me.”
“I think that the people around you will help you deal with those issues you have. As long as you’re open to talk about them.”
After a long three-month recovery, Daukaus returned to the Octagon that following October and arguably had the best performance of his UFC career against Kevin Holland. Although the fight was ruled a no-contest due to an accidental clash of heads, the 28-year-old showed a level of aggression he can carry into his next bout at UFC Vegas 48.