Earlier this year, Matt Grice fought Dennis Bermudez at UFC 157. It was a heart-stopping blend of action and endurance, and it easily won Fight of the Night honors. It will be in contention when the best fights for the entire year are determined; it's a rare thing when a fight that happens early in the year is still in contention 11 or 12 months later.
I spoke to Grice the morning after UFC 157 at our hotel by Disney World. As you might expect, his face was battered, but he was the same courteous, respectful fighter I'd met years before at a World Extreme Cagefighting event in Denver. Even though he'd lost a close decision to Bermudez, he was happy with the performance because it put him on the radar of UFC brass. They knew they could count on Grice to put on exciting fights.
He was scheduled to return to the cage in October, at UFC 166, against Jeremy Larsen. But on Sept. 8, Grice was involved in a horrific auto accident in Shawnee, Okla.
A driver going 65 miles per hour struck Grice's Jeep as Grice waited at a stoplight. Here's the official report from the City of Oklahoma's website:
On Sunday, Sept 8th, at approximately 4pm, off-duty Officer Matthew Grice (age 32) was involved in a serious multi-car accident in Shawnee, OK (accident investigated by Oklahoma Highway Patrol). The accident left him in critical condition. Officer Grice was transported to an Oklahoma City hospital,where his status is currently listed as confidential. The Grice family has asked for privacy as they deal with this sudden and unfortunate situation.
Local newspaper The Oklahoman provided more details on the accident, citing a patrol report. For Grice, though, the accident remains a mystery. He appeared on The MMA Hour on Monday to discuss the accident and fallout:
I don't remember the accident at all. I guess I got rear-ended, and the guy went 65 MPH. He never hit his brakes or anything, and he hit me going 65. ... He said he was distracted by his grandkids. Luckily, they were OK, I think one of them hurt their nose or something. They ended up being alright. He wasn't paying attention apparently. It was a stoplight you could see almost for a mile. How he was distracted that long, I don't know.
Doctors kept Grice in a medically-induced coma, removing a portion of his skull to allow the pressure on his brain to subside. He was eventually brought out of the coma and told Ariel Helwani that he could not remember his wife or kids:
I woke up, and I didn't remember being married and didn't remember having kids. It really shook me up. So, they brought someone in and explained everything and showed me pictures. Now, I remember almost everything, it just threw me for a loop, and I just started bawling right then and there.
After a long hospital stay, Grice was sent home for outpatient recovery. He has another surgery scheduled for Dec. 13, where doctors will re-attach the portion of his skull they took off during his hospital stay. The Oklahoma Police Department is holding a job for him; the only question is whether Grice will be allowed to go back on patrol or if he'll be forced to work a less strenuous job due to his injuries.
And though a return to the Octagon seems unlikely for someone who has suffered such a traumatic brain injury, Grice isn't ruling anything out.
I talked to one of the doctors, and it depends on putting the skull back in and how it all does. Like I said, I'm only two months into this deal, and it's surprising how along I am already, so they're not ruling anything out. I'm hoping yeah, I'd love to fight again. That's what I do, I enjoy what I do, it's fun and I just love competing, I hope I can do it again.
We don't know if Grice will ever step foot in the Octagon again, and we don't know if he'll ever be able to go back out on patrol.
But there's one thing we do know, without a shadow of a doubt: Matt Grice is a fighter.
If you'd like to continue following Matt's progress, please visit the Facebook page maintained by his wife Caroline.