After losing a fight Saturday some 7,300 kilometres away before an empty arena in Brasilia, UFC lightweight John (The Bull) Makdessi is back home in Montreal — in self-isolation.
"I'm under (self) quarantine right now — 14 days," he said in an interview. "And I need to get some medical assistance (as a result of the fight). I can't even do that.
"I can't go to (the UFC) headquarters because I'd have to go to Vegas and I can't travel," he added referencing the UFC Performance Institute where medical and other help is available to fighters. "And here no hospital will see me because I'm in quarantine."
Still he's happy to be back on Canadian soil after a nerve-jangling stay in Brazil.
As news of the COVID-19 outbreak grew fight week, Makdessi says there was confusion over whether the Fight Night card would go on as scheduled
"It was very weird ... Everybody was kind of like not sure about what was going on. Mentally it was a scary feeling — not knowing what was going on," he said. "Plus with the coronavirus and then my family back home. A lot of things were going through my head."
Makdessi is no ordinary fighter. He has talked openly about the pressures of fighting in a cage for a living, keeps a journal on the ups and downs of his career and practises meditation as a way to stay even-keeled.
"MMA is my wife, it's my girlfriend, it's my best friend," he once said.
"All I do is watch tape and eat, sleep and train — three, four hard training sessions a day."
Just getting to Brazil was a challenge. He took three flights to get to the Brazilian capital and another two to get home.
Makdessi said he had to shut off his phone before the fight because "social media was blowing up on this whole virus thing." He had his hands wrapped at the hotel before leaving for the arena, with organizers taking a few people at a time to the venue.
When it was his time to fight, he walked out into an empty building.
"It was very strange," he said. "Everything was strange."
To make matters worse, the 34-year-old lost a fight he thought he had won. The judges scored it 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 for Francisco (Massaranduba) Trinaldo, a 41-year-old veteran fighting in his hometown.
"I thought I was winning the fight." Makdessi said. "I thought I did enough to win, but I keep forgetting that MMA is not like boxing. You don't appreciate the movement.
"I wanted to move a lot. He's a dangerous opponent. He has a lot of power. ... It's not the first time I got robbed."
Makdessi noted that he landed more significant strikes — 67 compared to 55 — than Trinaldo, according to the UFC's own statistics.
But the round-by-round numbers were close.
Makdessi had a 25-12 edge in significant strikes in the first round, while both landed 19 in the second round. Trinaldo had a 24-23 edge in the third.
Thirty-six of Makdessi's strikes were leg kicks. Trinaldo, meanwhile, connected 34 times to Makdessi's head.
"I made him miss a lot, but the judges don't really look at the defence part," Makdessi said.
Trinaldo connected on 55 of 126 significant strikes (43 per cent) compared to 67 of 123 (54 per cent) for Makdessi.
Trinaldo (25-7-0) improved to 15-6-0 in the UFC while Makdessi (17-7-0) fell to 10-7-0 in the promotion while seeing his three-fight win streak snapped.
It was Makdessi's first bout in a year. He was slated to appear at UFC 241 last August, but had to pull out through injury.
He was classy in defeat, congratulating his opponent for the win via social media, while thanking UFC president Dana White and matchmaker Sean Shelby for giving him the fight.
"And for the fans I apologize it wasn't my best performance," he added.
It was his 17th UFC bout. Among Canadians, only Georges St-Pierre (22), Patrick (The Predator) Cote (21) and Sam (Hands of Stone) Stout (20) have more UFC fights to their credit, and all three are retired.
An undersized lightweight, the five-foot-eight Makdessi is an accomplished technical striker. He holds one of the few UFC stoppages by spinning back-fist (in Toronto against Kyle Watson at UFC 129 in April 2011).
But the Halifax-born Makdessi has also been the nail and not the hammer.
Taking on lightweight contender Donald (Cowboy) Cerrone on short notice at UFC 187 in May 2015, Makdessi was forced to retire late in the second round with a broken jaw.
And at UFC 206 in Toronto in December 2016, Lando Vannata knocked him cold with a spinning wheel kick to the head.
There is added stress in that most UFC athletes get a show fee for fighting — with what is usually a matching bonus if they win. Makdessi believes veteran fighters should get rewarded no matter the outcome.
"Bellator they have one fixed rate," he said, referencing a rival promotion. "It's less pressure on the fighters. They should just give us one rate. Like, I'm a professional fighter. They know I'm going to train. They know I'm not going to show up out-of-shape."
Makdessi prepared for the Brazil fight at the MMA Lab in Phoenix and had former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson in his corner at the Ginasio Nilson Nelson.
Fellow Canadian Randa (Quiet Storm) Markos also lost Saturday. Brazilian strawweight Amanda Ribas was dominant in winning a unanimous 30-26, 30-25, 30-25 decision over the strawweight from Windsor, Ont.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 17, 2020.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press