“It’s ridiculous when you think about it. A year ago, I had the biggest opportunity of my career ripped away from me,” Brahimaj said. “But I said I would be back, and I said I would make it to the UFC. Nothing was going to stop me from persevering and beating that tumor.”

In mid-September, surgeons removed Brahimaj’s left eye and removed the tumor through the eyelid. The surgery was a complete success and put the 27-year-old on the path to recovery. In February, he was told that he was cleared to participate in all forms of training, contact included.

It was a moment Brahimaj won’t forget.

“There was just so much unknown. I was truthfully at the mercy of the known,” Brahimaj said. “To know that I beat it is something I can’t describe in words. The whole year was an emotional rollercoaster because if anything had gone wrong, the landscape of my life would be completely different.”

On Saturday, Brahimaj will make his UFC debut against Takashi Sato. When I start to ask Brahimaj about his upcoming matchup, he can’t help but get emotional.

“This is a long time coming, and by the grace of God and by his decree it will be the little bit of freedom that I have. I’ve prepared for everything and I’ve trained my hardest for this,” Brahimaj said. “For the first time in a long time I will have 15 minutes of freedom. I finally will get to enjoy myself, and especially after what happened to me in the past year, I just can’t wait to do what I love.”

Photo via @ramizb170 on Istagram