LAWRENCE — He was on the fast track to the bright lights and big stages in mixed martial arts but then it was taken away in a snap ... the snap of his ankle.
“I was training for a big fight in Pennsylvania,” said Rodrigo Almeida. “My sparring partner went to take me down and my ankle got caught on the fence. Someone rolled over on it and it broke.”
Almeida will represent Wai Kru-Intenze studio in Lawrence when he returns from an 18-month layoff in a professional lightweight bout tonight against 4-5 Josh Parker of Skowhegan, Maine. It’s part of the Combat Zone March Madness card at Rockingham Park.
At the time, the 25-year-old Brazilian native had compiled a record of 8-2-0 in impressive fashion, won a title belt in the WFL, and was overflowing with talent and potential. Nicknamed The Young Lion, Almeida notched his last win in September of 2011. There was chatter about him moving up to the UFC, WEC or Bellator. But the only place he was headed after the accident was to an operating room.
“I had to have surgery and get the metal braces, screws and everything,” he said about the total reconstructive procedure. “It’s now 100 percent. I left physical therapy (Tuesday) afternoon and they checked it and it still looks good. The doctors OK’d me to fight Friday night.”
During the year and a half of down time, Almeida, who lives in Woburn, had to get himself back into fighting shape. The mental ordeal was as tough as the physical one.
“After I broke my ankle, I had no money, no nothing. I didn’t know what I was going to do because I was getting ready for a fight and then everything was just taken away from me,” said Almeida, who will attempt his comeback at 155 pounds instead of his customary 145.