“It just felt like [I] was cut from the UFC because of an injury, not for performance, and that was just something I couldn’t live with. If I’m not good enough – if I lose, losing is a part of the sport. But to have my livelihood stripped because of this injury and be on the outskirts looking in, watching the success of other fighters, and maybe some fighters that I feel I can compete with in the division, [was] just very difficult.”
Although the UFC paid for Hill’s surgery to fix his leg, he said the cost of his ongoing treatment, combined with his lack of fight income, prompted him to move his family into his parents’ house.
“We may have walked away with 20 grand (for the Hartt fight), and for that injury, it doesn’t measure up,” said Hill, who lives in Spring Hill, Fla., and is a father of three. “I have a condition called ‘drop toe’ that we were no longer able to get treatment on. Two years after, I was still having surgeries from the initial injuries.
“I have several toes that don’t extend any more. And we all know you get your power from your feet. … I appreciate the UFC and everything they did because the surgery alone was quite a big deal.
“But still, paying for that doesn’t pay for the bills and your cost of living. That was my fourth professional fight ever, so to have that happen, we not only fell in the hole – we were under the hole.”
Hill was resolved, however, to continue his career and prove he was worthy of fighting in the UFC. On the reality show, he was one of the most driven and eager to learn from other cast members with far more experience.
Today, that hunger remains, though he also is embracing another grind – the life of a student. He is a business administration major at a local college.
* * * *
Hill continues to train at Universal Martial Arts in Spring Hill. He now fights at welterweight, which fills him out from his years as a beanpole lightweight. While he lacks training partners of his stature and pro experience, he makes no excuses for the trajectory of his career.
“We’re still at it,” Hill said. “It seems to be different rules for different guys. But that’s life. You don’t cry over spilled milk. The one thing I will not do is give up.”
Although he wonders whether concerns over liability would make the UFC hesitant to bring him back, he wants one last shot, whether or not he’s physically the same man he was when he last stepped into the octagon.
Thankfully, he said, he still has the support of his family, who lived with him through one of the most difficult experiences of his life.
This past Sunday, his wife – “the one with the strong stomach,” he said – found the Silva fight online and told him what happened. He didn’t want to watch.
It took him two years to watch his own fight, after all.
“To be honest, you will never truly recover,” Hill said. “I feel like I’ve grown, I feel like I’m blessed to be here, and I’m blessed to continue fighting. But as far as being 100 percent, it’s not going to happen.”