When an amateur steps into the cage for the first time to compete they typically don't expect to be leaving the venue in an ambulance and facing a lengthy recovery, but that's exactly what happened to Wayne Downer on Saturday night at Cage Titans 55.
Downer's opponent, Kyle Pavao, was also making his amateur debut, and it was a very competitive fight right up until the moment that it wasn't. As Downer was getting back to his feet, Pavao, a highly-skilled young grappler, grabbed an Americana, followed Downer up to his feet, and torqued Downer's arm and broke his humerus bone in one of the more gruesome injuries you'll ever see in MMA. It was a shocking end to a debut for two very talented young MMA fighters, with Downer obviously being worse for wear.
I was able to catch up with Wayne and talk about the fight, his road to recovery, and his ultimate goal as a MMA fighter. Downer was in a very good headspace as I talked to him, and I quickly got the impression that this is a very humble, dedicated, and grateful man who just happened to be part of one of the more visually gruesome injuries that we've seen in the history of New England MMA.
Downer is a 32 year old truck driver by day who also is a personal trainer. He trains out of The Cage JSA in Cromwell, Connecticut, and is a blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do that has been training in martial arts since he was 13 years old and made the transition over to Mixed Martial Arts when he was 29. Although this was Downer's debut MMA fight, he still had many years of training under is belt.
I asked Downer about the sequence of events that led to the injury and the short time afterwards, and the best way that he could describe it, is that it was all a blur.
"It happened so quickly. I knew I was in a bad position, but I wasn't expecting my arm to snap. Right now it's all a blur."
Although the pain was immense, and the imagery intense, Downer was quickly thinking about getting back to the sport he loves. "When I got to the hospital I looked at the nurse and asked her, 'how long until I can get back in the gym?', and she looked at me kind of crazy - like, you just broke your arm and you're already looking to get back into the gym."
As Downer awaits to hear from the orth