Luana Carolina returns from devastating spinal fracture at UFC on ESPN+ 30

ABU DHABI – The UFC’s current run on “Fight Island” represents an opportunity for many international fighters to get back to work after a pandemic-forced layoff. For Luana Carolina, her time away from competition started much earlier.

“It was very weird because I was having a lot of pain in camp, but I was training through it,” Carolina told MMA Junkie through an interpreter. “Then one day I couldn’t even lift anything from the ground. I couldn’t sit down. I couldn’t stand up – just completely froze.”

Carolina made her way to the UFC through the Brazilian edition of Dana White’s Contender Series. She then proved victorious in her UFC debut, picking up a decision win over Priscila Cachoeira at UFC 237 in May 2019.

Carolina was then expected to compete at this past August’s UFC on ESPN+ 15 event in China, when she realized something was wrong.

When she consulted doctors, Carolina found out she had a “really serious spine fracture” that forced her to bed rest for a full month.

“I had to stay completely still for a month, then the next month, I had to do physical therapy very slowly,” Carolina said. “Then the next month, physical therapy alongside with muscle workouts to make my muscle strong again. I couldn’t even sleep on my side, so it was serious, but no surgery. Three months of recovery, and then I was able to come back and start training again.”

Carolina said she was told the injury is actually quite rare in adults and was a stress fracture most often in seen in child gymnasts. Incredibly, she insists she’s no healthier than ever before.

“I had some time off, but now I’m back and better,” Carolina said.

Carolina (6-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) now takes on fellow Brazilian Ariane Lipski (12-5 MMA, 1-2 UFC) at Saturday’s UFC on ESPN+ 30 event in Abu Dhabi. The bout streams live on ESPN+ following prelims on ESPN and ESPN+.

The women’s flyweight contest was originally set for May before the ongoing coronavirus pandemic forced a move to June, then to July. Carolina said she didn’t mind the rescheduling, as it simply allowed her more time to prepare.

“The China fight that I got injured, it was a very quick turnaround for me because I won in May, and then I had a month off, and then I accepted the fight to have like 45 days to train,” Carolina said. “Now I had almost a year to study my game, to really train my mind and to train my skills. I came back and I trained a lot.

“This fight was rescheduled three times, so I had a great camp, and I’m super ready for it.”

Both Carolina and Lipski consider themselves strikers, so the contest could prove quite entertaining. For her part, “Dread” definitely sees it playing out as a standup battle.

“It’s going to be a great stylistic matchup,” Carolina said. “We’re both strikers. She’s very aggressive. She loves to walk forward all the time. I also love to strike, so I think the fans are in for a great show.”

What comes after remains to be seen. Carolina admits she’s not looking too far into the future. The comeback means everything, and though she hopes to make up for lost time, she knows it all starts with her efforts on Saturday.

“Right now, I’m only thinking about this next bout,” Carolina said. “But I want to fight at least three times a year. This year, since it’s a shortened year, I want to fight at least twice, but yeah, I surely want to stay busier than before.”

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