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After 45 professional MMA bouts, Heath Herring has had the chance to engage in a lot of involuntary hospital tourism.
He can tell you, for instance, that he was so trusting of the Japanese health system that leaving a PRIDE fight banged up was not even that concerning. But there were also a few less-than-pleasant experiences with international healthcare that stand out for “The Texas Crazy Horse.”
There’s one, specifically, that sounds straight out of a movie. And not the type of feel-good movie that Reese Witherspoon could play the lead.
The year was 2000, and the city was a very different version of 2017’s Moscow. While Herring couldn’t recall exactly the name of the opponent – which, after hearing the story, is not all that surprising – the timeline and injury fit with an International Absolute Fighting Council meeting with Ramazan Mezhidov.
Herring (28-16) lost the fight via TKO due to a nasty cut and figured (probably accurately) that he needed stitches. So despite the advice of fellow fighters, who told him to wait a couple of days until he was in Holland, he went to the hospital.
He started really thinking about his decision on the way over.
“Just the ride to the hospital was nuts,” Herring told MMAjunkie Radio. “They’re blaring the lights – it wasn’t an emergency. We didn’t have to, like, go Code 4, Code 3 to get there or whatever. I thought we were going to die on the way there.”
They didn’t. But, after being greeted by “guys with AK-47s” at the gates of the hospital, Herring says he met a grizzly scene inside of it.
“I go in, and there’s literally dead bodies on gurneys,” Herring said. “There’s blood on the floor. And I’m like, ‘What is going on?’ Crazy, really, seriously.”
Herring saw himself sitting next to a guy who, judging by look of it, he could only assume had been hit on the face with an axe. Another patient, probably in slightly better shape, enthusiastically advised Herring not to disclose the information that he was American.
“Don’t tell him that,” Herring recalled being told. “They think you’re from Sweden. They’re talking about you right now.”
Shortly after, Herring was informed that he was going to be treated by the best doctor available on the premises.
“So this guy comes out, smoking a cigarette, and he’s like ‘Oh, you need stitches, hun?’” Herring said. “And I was like, ‘Yeah.’ He’s like, ‘How many? One or two?’ I thought he was joking. The cut was this long, I mean – here you’d get probably 20 stitches or something. And I’m like, ‘At least two.’ I’m thinking he’s joking with me, right?’”
“We’re walking down the hall, and the doctor stops,” Herring said. He turns and goes, ‘AIDS? HIV? Hepatitis?’ And I was like ‘No, no, nyet.’ And we started to walk into this room. And then he stops and takes me to the other room. So he’s taking me to the operating room where they work on people with AIDS and stuff.
“We go in and there’s blood on the table. And he goes, ‘Lay down.’ I start laughing, because I think it’s a joke, right. I think they’re just messing with me.”
“At this point, I was totally shell-shocked,” Herring said. “I just had no idea what was going on. I lay down, it literally looks like a mustard bottle of – I guess it was iodine. He just squirts it on over my head.
“And then it was like kite stream. Like on a wheel of kite stream, probably this thick. And he just starts stitching my head up. I got like two stitches, I was totally freaked out.”
After the “I told you so” claims from his Dutch friends, an understandably still-freaked-out Herring had a much more pleasant hospital experience in Holland – where he took tests and got what can be loosely interpreted as a happy ending to his tale of woe.
“The doctor there starts laughing, she’s like, ‘Who gave you the stitches?” Herring said. “Dr. Frankenstein? She’s like, ‘The stitches that they’re using, they don’t even make them anymore. It’s like middle ages.’ So she took them out, re-stitched them. It was bananas.”
To hear Herring’s full account of the hospital trip from hell, check out the video above.
And for more on upcoming MMA schedule, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.