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 orthopedic on if he'll need surgery or not, he's not letting a tough debut deter him from pursuing his goals. "I signed up for this. I knew even as an amateur there was a chance that I could get hurt. I'm definitely going to be fighting after I heal up."
With Downer's background as a striker, he was looking to make an impression in his debut MMA fight, but this wasn't exactly the way that Downer had it mapped out in his head.
"I was hoping to go viral in another way, with like a spinning head-kick or something, and not go viral like this, but it's all good. Everyone has been great through this whole process - Cage Titans, the fight community, everyone."
The incident has garnered national attention, with Downer, Pavao, and Cage Titans promoter, Mike Polvere, recently sitting down for an interview with Mike Heck from MMAFighting.com, and the clip of the injury has been posted throughout social media in the days following. Downer knew the risks going in, and neither Kyle Pavao nor the ref (Steve Rita) did anything wrong in this situation. Sometimes these things happen in MMA. Simple as that.
Downer is in a really good headspace and is already looking forward to continuing his MMA career and eventually become a high-level professional.
"This injury isn't going to stop me at all. I still have goals that I want to achieve in this sport. This isn't going to shake me mentally. As soon as I get the all clear from the doctor, I'm going to be punching that heavy-bag with all my might."
Wayne Downer obviously has a long road to recovery, and there has been a GoFundMe setup to help him pay for medical care, the loss of wages, and many other expenses that he'll be taking on over the coming months. We ask all of our readers to donate to Wayne's GoFundMe with the link below to help this warrior get back in the cage. 5 dollars, 50 dollars, 500 dollars......whatever you can do would be greatly appreciated!