This weekend, Tom Aspinall makes his octagon return after an ACL injury. Many fighters have suffered similar injuries, but still managed to have legendary careers. Let's take a look at 5 fighters who had great success after suffering an ACL injury.
1. Dominick Cruz
Probably one of the more famous ACL injuries in MMA, Dominick Cruz has torn both of his ACLs. In 2012, following his second defense of his UFC Bantamweight title, he tore his left ACL. He would ultimately need two operations on the injury when his body initially rejected the cadaver ACL he received in his first surgery. Cruz was out from 2011-2014, returning with a first-round knockout over Takeya Mizugaki. Following this, he'd tear his right ACL, keeping him out again until 2016. Upon his return, he'd find triumphant title victories over two of his biggest rivals, TJ Dillashaw and Uriah Faber. Cruz lost the title to Cody Garbrandt in December 2016 and remains active to this day. At the peak of his injuries between 2011 and 2016, he went 5-1, with five of those bouts being for titles, and is largely considered the greatest Bantamweight of all time.
2. Gegard Mousasi
Following a 2011 bout with Ovince St. Preux, Gegard Mousasi tore his ACL. He would receive surgery that year and be out all of 2012, returning in 2013. He’d pick up two UFC victories over Mike Kyle and Ilir Latifi before, unfortunately, reinjuring himself that same year. Mousasi claimed he was injured when he fought Latifi, stating, “I trained for a fight, and I already had my schedule for my operation. I didn’t have an ACL.” Suffering no further leg injuries after this, he has gone 15-6 since he returned in 2014. During this time, he has won the Bellator Middleweight title twice and defended it three times. Still considered one of the best fighters in the world, Mousasi is currently the #2 ranked Middleweight in Bellator.
3. Conor McGregor
Easily the most famous fighter in our sport, many people may not realize Conor McGregor’s injury history. During the second round of his 2013 fight with Max Holloway, he heard his knee pop, which turned out to be a complete ACL tear that sidelined him until the next year. He’d still win this fight by a dominant unanimous decision, and it is still a bout many people would love to see again. While not quite as backed up, McGregor also claims he had an 80% tear of his ACL prior to his fight with Chad Mendes in 2015. Regardless, he would launch his legendary career after his ACL tear. Following 2013, he’d win nine total performance bonuses (8 straight post-Holloway), become a double champion, and be voted the 2015 Fighter of the Year by a plethora of pundits.
4. Georges St-Pierre
Often considered the greatest fighter of all time, Georges St-Pierre has torn both his ACLs. The first instance would occur while training to fight Nick Diaz in 2011, tearing his right ACL completely and damaging his meniscus. This injury came after he had already sprained his left MCL, forcing him to pull out of a scheduled bout with Carlos Condit at UFC 137. St-Pierre returned in 2012 with three successful title defenses against Nick Diaz, Carlos Condit, and Johny Hendricks. Following his 2013 retirement, he tore his left ACL in 2014, putting his MMA comeback even more in doubt. Despite this, he’d return to the UFC in 2017 and defeat Michael Bisping for the Middleweight title.
5. Ronda Rousey
Although a figure of controversy in recent years, Ronda Rousey is one of the most influential women in the history of MMA and tore her ACL before even starting her career. She suffered a severe ACL injury at 16 and required reconstructive surgery. The surgery ended up being a significant moment for her, as she explained, “2 weeks after my ACL reconstruction (at 16 years old), my mom had me on the floor doing pushups to teach me a lesson: you can sit around and feel sorry for yourself, or get off your mopey ass and train with a vengeance.” Rousey would embark on a legendary career, winning an Olympic bronze medal before entering MMA. She’d go on a 12-fight undefeated run, winning and defending the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight title and holding the UFC Women’s Bantamweight title from 2013-2015. She’d have to have knee surgery again in 2017 but remains a successful professional wrestler and celebrity.
Honorable Mention: Bruce Buffer
Everybody's favorite ring announcer injured his ACL inside of the octagon back in 2011. Buffer had twisted his ankle a few days prior but refused to miss an event and would show up to do his duties at UFC 129. The card was headlined by a title fight between Georges St-Pierre and Jake Shields, and he gave his all during the introductions. When St-Pierre rushed forward upon the announcement of his nickname, “Rush,” Buffer took a hop back, blowing out his ACL when he landed. Despite this, he’d finish announcing the fighters and managed to get out of the cage on his own power. As we all know, Bruce Buffer continues to introduce fighters with the same energy and vigor as always.