Many an eyebrow was raised when the UFC released Norman Parke earlier this year. The Northern Irishman had put together a very respectable 5-3-1 record inside the Octagon - with two of those losses being incredibly close split decisions - but, nonetheless, the lightweight was handed his walking papers after dropping another decision to Rustam Khabilov last February.
Parke, an Ultimate Fighter winner, suffered a serious knee injury in the first round of the Khabilov fight and that, coupled with his UFC release, led to some dark times for the man from Bushmills.
In an interview with FloCombat, Parke elaborated on just how low he had gotten:
I completely tore the ligaments in the inside of my knee in the first round of my last UFC fight with [Rustam] Khabilov in February. It took a very long time for that to heal, and I've only really been back training for the past eight weeks. I remember just lying there injured in bed, just fucked up in bed with my knee healing, and I remember going to sleep that night thinking about just not fighting anymore and just coaching and stuff like that. It was pretty fucked.
One text message later and the wind was considerably back in Parke's sails.
I went to sleep and then I woke up and I had a random message from Conor McGregor. He'd texted me saying, 'What are you up to these days and are you training?' He then went to say that he wanted me to come down and help him for the Diaz fight and that he was bringing in some good guys to help him prepare.
Parke defeated Reza Madadi via decision is his most recent UFC win in Dublin last October
Unfortunately for all involved the knee injury nixed McGregor's proposal, though the fact that he was even asked proved to be the motivation that Parke needed to reaffirm his commitment to mixed martial arts.
That gave me a massive buzz to get back and just get straight back at it. He then hit me up again two weeks later saying can I come down [to SBG Ireland] and I just had to say that I'd honestly like to come, but my knee was so jacked up I would've been no use to him at all. In hindsight, maybe I should've just strapped the fucker up and got in there, and I was very close to doing that, but I didn't want to hinder his training.
As for Parke's next step, that remains unclear. The knee injury which hampered him so much in 2016 is now in his rear view mirror and, with the UFC announcing their return to Belfast last week, Parke now has something to focus on.
If they weren't going to Belfast, I wouldn't even mention UFC. It wasn't even crossing my mind--I was just focused on getting five or six straight wins. But when I heard that UFC Belfast was coming, I thought, 'No way. There is no way I can't make a run at that card.' There's loads of talent coming up here, but I'm definitely the biggest star here in Northern Ireland.