“He ended up having the same injury during my fight week for Miles Johns,” said Bautista. “I was there when he tore his pec, and he was two months ahead of me, so I watched him recover from that. He’s always a positive guy, and he was making pretty big progress in two months, so I wasn’t too worried about how I was gonna feel afterwards or how it was going to impede anything. So I was looking up to Jared because he was going to the same physical therapist that I was and he had the same surgeon I did and obviously the same tear.”

The middleweight contender made a full recovery and was back in the Octagon last October, going three rounds with former champ Robert Whittaker, and Bautista is feeling just as confident in his return, one he hoped would have seen him back in action in January, but with the hectic bantamweight picture, fight slots are getting filled up in rapid-fire fashion. So here he is, and he’s happy to be back in the mix in perhaps the sport’s most compelling weight class.

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“I think it’s an exciting division,” said Bautista. “Every year there’s some new guys coming in, some new names and bigger names like Khabib’s cousin (Umar Nurmagomedov). That brings more light to the division, and this whole last year, watching my teammates Kyler (Phillips), Casey Kenney and Sean O’Malley do their thing, I never wanted to be in there more. It feels like it made me hungrier and I just want to get in there and be a part of that spotlight with all those guys.”

And going through a serious injury has made Bautista even more grateful to be back to work.