Think about what you have done in the past 1,261 days.

That’s nearly three and a half years. There’s a very real possibility that your life just isn’t the same as it was before those 1,261 days passed. It’s probably fair to suggest that your goals in life would have changed over that span of time. So much can change in the blink of an eye, let alone during the passing of more than three years. It’s hard to stay continually focused on something when it seems so far away.

Hayder Hassan hadn’t seen the inside of a cage for approximately 1,261 days. But the second he stepped back inside it on Oct. 12, it was almost as if he had not never left it. It was as though he had never even spent all that time in recovery. The path that he traveled in order to get back into active competition was a long one, and it’s pretty easy to assume that it wasn’t too ideal for the up-and-coming fighter. Yet, everything that he went through was necessary. In fact, he wouldn’t change a thing.

Hassan (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Hassan (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

“After my fight in 2010, I had a lot of complications with my hand after [numerous amounts of] surgery,” Hassan explained in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “In the first round, I knocked him down and I broke my hand. And then in the second round, it happened again.

“I went to a specialist and recovered for a bit, and then it broke again in sparring. So once again I went through the recovery, and then I broke it again in sparring. After that, I went to a surgeon and had my hand totally reconstructed. After three surgeries, there are no issues and it’s all properly fixed now. Before, it was getting fixed enough to work a job at a desk or a nine-to-five, but because of the force from sparring, it just wasn’t the right fix.”

Some people would look at the extended layoff from the sport and see it as an omen. They’d say it’s time to find a new path to travel in life. Mixed martial arts is very much about the here and now, and it only takes a small amount of time for a fighter to be forgotten in the sea of so many new faces. But when the here and now consists of a holding pattern, a fighter must adapt and continue to evolve.

“I am forever grateful for my injury,” he admitted. “I am pretty optimistic about everything in life. To me, it’s about the glass being half full, and that’s just the kind of approach I think that you should take not only in fighting, but in life in general.

“I knew that [while I couldn’t fight] I had to think outside the box and grow other skills as a martial artist. I started to really develop the left side of my body and spent months with that. And after I had worked on that, I started learning how to kick both southpaw and orthodox, and then went on to defending in both. I was able to really grow and mature as a fighter, and I saw it as a blessing to be able to add a lot more tools to my belt.”

Hassan (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Hassan (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

On Oct. 12, after more than three years on the sidelines, Hassan was set to make his return to the cage at Championship Fighting Alliance 12. Following so many setbacks over the years before he could even don the gloves again, it should come as no surprise that his return to action didn’t exactly go off without a hitch.

“I was scheduled to be in the sixth fight of the show, which was right before we were going live on AXS. It got to around 8:30 [p.m.] and I got called up to start getting ready,” Hassan recalled. “I started to warm up and built up my sweat and everything, and then I was told we had to be pushed back to the last fight of the night because they were worried about the time.

“I just had to focus and regroup, because it was going to be a four to four-and-half-hour wait. I got my brother to go get me a pizza and I ate that, which probably wasn’t the best idea, because I’d been eating clean for such a long time it actually made me feel a little bit flat going into the fight. The thing was that I’d timed my diet to be eating at a certain time, so the time discrepancy kinda threw that out a bit.

“In every fight, you will have some kind of a challenge and, for me, that was it. I was just really excited to fight and grateful to be there. All the hard work with training had paid off and, to be honest, the grind and training itself is a fight, and for me just to make it to the cage was something that I was so happy with. In the scheme of things, it was only four hours I had to wait, which wasn’t that long. I was just chillin’ [laughs]. I felt kinda bad for my friends and family, though, because they had to wait so long to see me fight.”

With his successful return behind him, Hassan is eager to get back inside the cage once more. Like most other fighters, he has his goals set on competing on the world’s premier stage.

“I want to fight the best in the world,” he exclaimed. “I want to take a fight with a top opponent in January and then get the call from the UFC. The window in the sport is very limited, and you very much have to look at risk versus reward. I want to be in the UFC fighting against the best guys. That’s my focus, and I sacrifice everything for that.”

It may seem like the 1,261 days that Hassan was out of the game is too long of a time, but in his return he has shown that good things will indeed come to those who are willing to wait. The days, months and even years that he was in recovery have allowed him to hone his skills. Now, it’s the next 1,261 days and beyond that are truly going to count.

Hayder would like to thank MMA Owl, Slackers Bar and Grill, American Top Team and Guardian Sports Group. Follow Hassan on Twitter: @HayderHassan

Photo: Hayder Hassan (L) (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.