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Patrick Cote finally returns to octagon at UFC 113

After 18-month layoff, Cote looks forward to getting back to what he loves

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Courtesy of UFC

UFC middleweight Patrick Cote reacts after defeating Ricardo Almeida by split decision at UFC 86 on July 5, 2008.

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On October 25, 2008, Patrick Côté became the first UFC fighter to take Anderson Silva into a third round, only to see their championship fight end when he dislocated his right knee while throwing a kick. The injury resulted in a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus.

The following August, Côté was in training to make his return to the octagon when he felt yet another pop in the knee. It was the feeling of his MCL ligament again, tearing away from the bone.

At that point, it would have been easy for Côté to give up.

He had lost a chance at the middleweight title because of a freak injury. He had re-injured it trying to come back. Fighting in the UFC again just wasn't meant to be.

Instead of feeling sorry for himself, however, Côté looked at the setback in August as an opportunity to show he could come back from anything.

"I didn't feel sorry for myself that much," Côté said. "The thing is, I always knew I would come back. In my mind, I was set for the best UFC comeback ever. I knew, 'I'll come back one day.' That day is coming."

That day is nearly here, as Côté (14-5) finally will step into the octagon after an 18-month layoff to take on Alan Belcher (14-5) at UFC 113 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

It's fitting, actually, that Côté would make his return on a card that features Mauricio "Shogun" Rua as the main event. Rua, who will take on Lyoto Machida for the UFC light heavyweight title, was a source of inspiration for Côté as he came back from a similar injury in 2009.

"Actually, Mauricio had the same thing as me," Côté said. "He had surgery on his ACL, broke it again, had another surgery and now he's going to fight for the title again. So, I know I can do it too."

Despite the history of trouble with both his knees — he tore the meniscus in his left knee playing soccer as a 17-year-old — Côté says his mind is completely at ease regarding his repaired knee because of the last procedure he underwent.

To make sure the injury didn't occur a third time, his surgeon used two separate ligaments to hold the knee together instead of one.

"The first surgery I had was a perfect job," Côté said. "What happened to me happens once in 500,000 times. When I started to train harder, the ligament unstuck from the bone and broke again.

"When I back for surgery, instead of just one ligament the doctor put in two from a cadaver. So now, instead of one, I have two."

With the issue of his right knee hopefully behind him, Côté's focus is to return to where he was the last time many UFC fans saw him — inside the octagon fighting for the middleweight title.

At the time of the injury, he was riding a five-fight win streak and — believe it or not — holding his own against the heavily-favored Silva.

Côté had lost both of the first two rounds, but he had absorbed some of Silva's best shots and not shown a hint of backing down.

According to Côté, he remembers feeling good before the fateful third round when his knee dislocated and feels that everything had actually gone to plan until that point.

"I felt good, I had fun," Côté said. "He gave me his best shot and I was still there. Our game plan was to survive the first two rounds and then open up in the third. Of course, that's when I broke my knee. But when that happened, I felt really, really good.

"I wasn't that disappointed afterward. Bad luck happens. I was in the locker room and everybody was happy around me. Minotauro (Antonio Nogueira) came in and told me, 'Nobody has ever done that to Anderson Silva, you did good.'"

Arguably, Silva never has been the same since that fight.

Of the three fights Silva has fought since taking on Côté, two have gone the entire five rounds of a championship fight.

In addition to not finishing fights, Silva has been widely criticized for his lack of action and showboating. Côté caught a small sample of that in his fight 18 months ago, when Silva bent down and offered to help him up off his back.

Côté ended up smiling and shaking his head at the gesture, but admitted that his first reaction was to give another gesture back.

"The first thing that crossed my mind was I wanted to give him the finger," Côté said. "But I thought, 'No, forget it. I'm going to stay in my game.' I don't know why he did that, and I don't want to know. The only thing I know is that he didn't expect me to turn it down."

Côté says he has nothing personal against Silva and would want to fight him again only because he still holds the middleweight belt.

That said, the Canadian fighter comes from the same camp as welterweight Georges St. Pierre, who is known for his respect toward martial arts.

With an injured right knee sidelining him for more than a year, Côté has watched Silva basically toy with some of his other opponents and says that any respect he used to have for him is now gone.

"I had a lot of respect for the guy — I lost it," Côté said. "The base of martial arts is respect. If you want to be cocky, I don't have a problem with that, but you have to back what you do. If you're bored or too good for a division, then go in and finish a guy.

"Against Demian Maia he was yelling at him, 'Where's your jiu-jitsu,' but then he didn't want to go to the ground. That's kind of funny to challenge somebody about the best aspect of his game but not want to prove that you're better than him at it. It's kind of crazy."

There may come a day when Côté gets his last three rounds against Silva, but for now the focus is on nothing more than taking out Belcher and enjoying his return to the sport.

A return that Côté never once thought wouldn't come.

"I'm just going to be happy as hell," Côté said. "I'm not a nervous guy. If you don't cheat in training champ then you have no reason to be nervous. I'll go there and have fun. I like what I'm doing."

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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