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By CHRIS BERNHARDT JR.

The video went viral. The images sprang up all over the Internet. Google the name Corey Hill and some version of the phrase “broken leg” will constantly appear.

So many people had seen the grotesque footage or pictures of Hill’s lower right leg contorting in a way no human bone should, but not Hill himself. At least not for a while.

It took nearly 11 full months for Hill to watch the moment that will likely be linked to his name – literally – throughout his mixed martial arts (MMA) career, which has improbably resumed this year.

“I felt like I had to watch it to get past it if I was ever going to fight again,” said Hill, a Spring Hill resident and 1997 Springstead graduate who turns 32 on Oct. 3. “Obviously it wasn’t my best moment.

“… It was shocking pain. It felt like it looked.”

Nevertheless, that moment has not only spurred an unlikely comeback story worthy of the big screen, a tale of perseverance over modern medicine and agonizing pain, but a little bit of personal revelation.

“It’s my moment, it’s about what I do with it,” Hill said. “You can give in or you can strap on your chin strap and toughen up. I’ve chosen to toughen up.”

A perfect check

It was on Dec. 10, 2008 at UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship): Fight for the Troops in Fayetteville, N.C. that Hill originally suffered his gruesome injury.

During his match that night, Hill attempted to kick his opponent, Dale Hartt, in the left leg. Hartt raised his leg to block the kick, and Hill’s shin connected just above Hartt’s knee.

“It was a perfect check by him and me being inexperienced,” Hill said.

Hill immediately collapsed as he attempted to plant his right leg. Fight over. Hill suffered a compound fracture of his tibia and fibula.

He went through surgery the next day, and thus began an arduous journey to try and salvage everything he had worked to obtain.

“They performed it (the surgery) the next morning,” Hill said. “I think it was probably a four-hour recovery process. It started hitting me. This really happened and it was going to be a long road.”

Hill said that roughly 70 percent of him believed that he would fight again. Medical professionals didn’t share such optimism. Most felt he would never again walk normally, let alone return to MMA.

“I went from doctor to doctor to doctor just trying to find a doctor that had my frame of mind as far as where I wanted to go in my fight career,” Hill said. “I kept searching. I kept my faith alive until I found somebody willing to do early surgery to get the pins out.”

Who he found was the same man who performed the original surgery in Fayetteville, Dr. James Santangelo. He took the pins out six months after the first procedure, and Hill began his difficult rehab process, much of which took place in Hernando County.

The injury did leave him with a condition called drop toe, which he said causes him to walk with a slight limp with no shoes on.

“I didn’t make a full recovery,” Hill said. “But I look at it as a way of reminding me what happened.”

Back at it

Hill fought for the first time since breaking his leg on Jan. 23 at Raging Wolf VI: Mayhem in the Mist in Niagara, N.Y. He defeated Jason Trzewieczynski by unanimous decision.

He has fought three more times since then, going 1-2 to bring his career record to 4-4. Most recently he lost by decision to Rob McCullough on Sept. 9 at the Tachi Palace Fights 6 in Lemoore, Cal.

“My first fight was very slow,” Hill said. “I didn’t throw a punch the entire first round. He threw a bunch of kicks. For me, I had to know I could mentally hold up.”

There have been adjustments. The former two-time state champion wrestler at Springstead has worked on picking his spots with his kicks, though he claims he doesn’t think about his leg anymore.

He has also learned to “listen to my body” and scale back on his training, using that time to spend with his family. He and his wife, Lauren, have a 9-year-old daughter, Seytia, and two sons, 6-year-old Keynan and 2-year-old Corey Jr.

“After the injury, I spent a whole year watching everybody else, watching their careers take off,” Hill said. “You have to sit back and stay humble. Be happy for the time you’ve had and I think that’s helped us now.

“… Having time off, being humbled, made me a better person. It increased my faith. I’m a better father, husband, son, brother.”

It would appear that Hill has turned a potentially crippling blow into a pathway of enlightenment, within every walk of his life.

Professionally, Hill pointed to several fighters in their early 30s making waves on the UFC circuit as a sign he has plenty of time to leave his mark.

Still, “that” moment will surely follow him. As long as YouTube and the like exist, he’ll forever live in infamy.

“I hope it follows me,” Hill said. “For me, it’s my strength. Any time I have doubt, I can look back and say I overcame something when most people would have thrown in their cards. I can live with that as far as motivation. It can follow me. I’m fine with it, as long as it doesn’t happen again.”

http://www2.hernandotoday.com/content/2010/sep/22/moment-weakness-beacon-strength/