Tristan Connelly UFC Vegas 53
Tristan Connelly, UFC Vegas 53 weigh-in Credit: Dave Noseworthy/Cageside Press

“Ready to make all this time off worth it,” is how Tristan Connelly put his return to action this Saturday at UFC Vegas 53.

As a result of a car accident in 2019, Connelly (14-7) has been on the shelf for months, his second layoff as a result of a lingering neck injury. He’s endured a pair of neck surgeries in recent years; it’s been so long, he barely remembers how he felt prior to the crash, he told The Top Turtle Podcast on Cageside Press recently.

It was months off from training, in any case. “For months, nothing. They don’t [let you] lift more than ten pounds. So that’s pretty much impossible. But after a month, you can pretty much start doing anything non-contact, just don’t start at 100%.”

That meant running, lifting weights, and slowly upping the intensity as the months went by. But thanks to the second surgery, an anticipated match-up with featherweight Makwan Amirkhani fell through.

“I was devastated, man. I was so excited to fight Makwan. As soon as I heard the name, I was like ‘give me the contract right now, let’s go.’ I was un-f*cking-believably stoked. Then to have it come on again for the same reasons that I’ve had in the past, it was devastating, it was heart-breaking,” Connelly recalled. “The only pros were, I knew what the process going forward was, because I’d already had the surgery, and I fought after having the first surgery.”

You might even consider Connelly a bit of a Terminator these days. “I’ve got two titanium discs in my neck, and I’m good to go.”

There was a bright side to the situation at least. Connelly went from one big name in Amirkhani to another in Darren Elkins. He’s even more amped for this latest match-up.

“Even more, even more,” Connelly replied when asked if he was as jazzed to fight Elkins as he had been for the Makwan fight. “There’s going to be so many eyes. Everyone knows who Darren Elkins is. Even if they don’t, as soon as you start explaining him, they’re like ‘oh yeah yeah I know that guy.’ And the way I fight, the way we fight, I think it’s an awesome match-up stylistically, and the fans are going to love the fight.”

Tristan Connelly faces Darren Elkins at UFC Vegas 53 this Saturday, April 30, 2022 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. Check out the full interview with Connelly on The Top Turtle Podcast below.

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