By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports
Sunday, nearly 24 hours after he authored an unforgettable 90-second rescue mission in New York that changed his life and his career, Matt Schnell finally had a moment to reflect at his home near Houston.
The man nicknamed “Danger,” who’d left his opponent unconscious and incredibly bloodied inside the Octagon in one of the most thrilling fights in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) history, was reduced to tears.
“Of course, I’m thinking about (my Mom) the whole time, but five minutes ago it hit me hard,” Schnell, whose mother, Vertie Hebert, passed away in March, told The Journal. “I do my best to remember her. She would have been so happy.”
Saturday, the Captain Shreve product preserved his UFC career with a victory that rocked the MMA world.
“I could have gotten my pink slip,” said Schnell, whose UFC contract ended Saturday. “I could have been on the outs. That changed my life, but I’ve always believed you can never count me out.”
In the first round of the last fight of his UFC contract, Schnell, the No. 8 contender in the Featherweight Division, was a unanimous 10-9 winner over Su Mudaerji. However, “The Tibetan Eagle” found his range early in the second round. He often staggered — and once knocked down — Schnell with a fury of fists and devastating elbows.
“Jesus Christ. The guy got rocked five or six times and it looked like it was over, like he was out,” UFC president Dana White said.
Incredibly, Schnell didn’t succumb to Mudaerji and began to flip the script with an occasional right hand.
After getting pummeled for 2 ½ minutes of the second round, Schnell executed a takedown and was suddenly in a dominant position on the ground, where he took his turn delivering a litany of elbows.
Moments later, Schnell transitioned to a triangle choke that put Mudaerji to sleep with 36 seconds left in the round.
“He had full control, but I think he tired himself out punching on me,” Schnell said. “He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever had stand in front of me. I’ve never been hit like that.”
Schnell and Mudaerji earned $50,000 each as recipients of “Fight of the Night.” White said the bonuses for Schnell wouldn’t end there.
“He’s not getting another 50 (thousand), but I’ll probably write him another (check),” White said. “He killed it tonight. He looked incredible.”
Schnell will likely be considered for other honors such as Fight of the Year and Comeback of the Year.
While the bonuses and accolades are great, more importantly, Saturday’s turn of events likely allowed the 32-year-old Schnell to retain control of his career path. After collecting a mountain of fans with his performance on Long Island, Schnell (16-6) hopes he’s part of the UFC card when it returns to New York and a historic venue in November.
“I’m up for a new contract,” Schnell said. “I could not give a rat’s ass about a few thousand dollars. I want that new deal and I want that Madison Square Garden slot. I just want to keep on working. The UFC always treats me well.
“Are there guys better than me at individual aspects of this game? Absolutely,” said Schnell, whose three wins via triangle choke are the second-most in UFC history. “Is there anybody in this world better than me at everything? I don’t know.”
Two months ago, Schnell fought in the wake of “Momma Danger’s” death, but was unable to secure the storybook finish in a first-round submission loss to Brandon Royval.
“It’s probably a more interesting story that I didn’t (win then),” said Schnell, whose wife, Morgan, is expecting his second child (a son) in January. “Life is not a freaking fairy tale just because something is supposed to happen — that’s not how it works. You have to earn it. Sometimes you have to walk through the pits of hell to make it happen.”
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