Making a comeback: Local fighter ready for return to the cage
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Mixed Martial Arts champion Chris Cocores is ready to make his return to the cage after nearly 3 years recovering and rehabilitating from a horrific, fatal car crash that claimed his girlfriend and dog.
Cocores was expected to fight on Saturday, but the bout was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. So the passionate fighter is looking ahead to a kickboxing competition Oct. 25 in Reno.
In December 2017, Cocores was in a terrible car accident in San Bernardino County. The accident zapped his physical strength and he spent three weeks at Lorna Linda University Medical Center recovering.
“I had no idea I was going to be fighting again,” said Cocores. “The odds of me competing again were so small.” When the Tribune covered his story in February of 2018, Cocores didn’t think he would be training to fight again anytime soon. Even with dim odds, he said that though he didn’t know when exactly, the moment he woke up he knew he needed to fight again, someday.
“I’ve always fed off challenges, it is in my blood,” he said.
At this point, trying to reach the Ultimate Fighting Championship wasn’t necessarily his goal anymore, but he knew he had to get back into the cage.
“The second the nurse said I could stand up after three weeks of being on my back, I asked her to hold my phone so I could shadowbox,” he said. “ I wanted to remind my body that I’ve still got it, that the mechanics are still there.”
Cocores was in prime shape before the accident, but afterwards he suffered major atrophy. A month without physical exercise, on a liquid diet after several surgeries and being anemic, he said it was hard to look at himself in the mirror because he had gotten so skinny.
Looking at the situation positively, he saw an opportunity to start from scratch. Starting with small goals like a few situps and pushups, he gradually gained muscle. He said that had it not been for the professionals, the recovery could have gone in a different direction.
“There were days I was in a lot of pain, days I was emotional but I just showed up and continued to show up day after day and took that rebuilding process very seriously,” he said. “I got with a team that included Jamison (Delalo), Allen (Barton) and we got to work.”
He had his final surgery in Tahoe with Zach Childs at Barton Memorial Hospital. He had a percontanios fusion which is a surgical procedure of the spine and left him needing ample time to recover.
In January, Cocores had an exciting meet with his neurosurgeon who cleared him to fight again. He signed a contract for Aug. 22, which has since been postponed a couple of times due to the pandemic.
“From my perspective, all I had left was fighting,” Cocores said. “I was determined to compete again because I had lost everything. I lost my girlfriend, my pup, my job, my apartment in San Diego and my entire life that I had built for myself.”
Cocores wasn’t new to hard times before the accident, his mother passed away when he was 19 years old.
“Fighting in the cage is easy after you have fought for your life,” he said.
After Cocores underwent four surgeries that he described as ‘hell on earth’ along with constant back pain and metal in his spine, he realized that the pain was a reminder that he was alive. He said that while the accident was physically grueling, it gave him more drive for physical challenges.
Patience is what he says he has struggled with. It’s been over three years since his last fight. Cocores said it was hard to sit back and watch his team compete and those he competed with level up in their career, some ending up at the highest level, in the UFC.
“Granted I have a great story now, but the patience aspect of it has been really hard,” he said.
Cocores has been training hard at Escobar Training Grounds in South Lake Tahoe.
Businesses have supported Cocores through recovery and the quarantine including The Village Boardshop, Lake Monster Tattoo, Big Blue Spa in Carson City and Megan Cary Artistry.
“Tahoe has really rallied behind me,” Cocores said. “I have been incredibly blessed having such an incredible support system.”
Cocores says that he is constantly being pushed forward by the community.
“My plan has been to go out and make a statement that setbacks can set you forward,” he said. “Despite everything that happened, anything is possible. I am obviously going to try to get a knockout, that’s what I did in the past, but I am going to try to do it quicker, harder and more cosmic than before. I have a lot to fight for.”
Cocores says that his next fight is not just about himself getting in the cage but it is about honoring his loved ones and those who have unconditionally stood beside him.
“I am looking forward to giving the fans what they have been waiting for,” he said. “This hasn’t been about me, this has been about a community. This is about a group of people that came together and found a common experience. I am just really excited to put on a show. Famous sports commentator Sid Waddell once said that is the greatest comeback since Lazarus, but just wait until you hear about Cocores.”
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