The Long Road To Recovery: How Lito Adiwang’s ‘Warrior Mentality’ Powered His Return From ACL Injury
Strawweight MMA star Lito “Thunder Kid” Adiwang doesn’t want to waste any more time on his climb toward a shot at divisional gold.
Fresh off a sensational first-round stoppage victory at ONE Friday Fights 34 in September, the Filipino is set for a quick turnaround when he rematches compatriot Jeremy Miado in U.S. primetime on November 3 at ONE Fight Night 16: Haggerty vs. Andrade on Prime Video.
That fight will be “Thunder Kid’s” second appearance since suffering a devastating knee injury that put him on the shelf for a year and a half – an injury he sustained in his March 2022 matchup with Miado.
Adiwang is now determined to exact revenge against “The Jaguar” and regain the momentum that saw him win seven of nine fights prior to the injury.
Looking back on his arduous road to recovery, the 30-year-old knockout artist says the hardest part was conquering the mental demons associated with sitting on the sidelines:
“I can admit that this experience was a lot more psychological than anything else. Physically, I could overcome it relatively easily, though this one was really more focused on the mental aspect of it all for the past 18 months.”
While the physical aspects of recovery might have been easy for Adiwang, he needed to lean on his mental fortitude, which had been strengthened over the course of his hardscrabble upbringing and a lifetime in martial arts.
That mental fortitude saw him return in peak form last month, as he starched the always-dangerous Adrian Mattheis in less than 30 seconds.
It wasn’t easy for Adiwang to get back to this point, but he realizes that injuries and pain are simply a part of the job – and hurdles he must get past:
“I think my warrior mentality definitely played a big role here. Another would be reflecting on the hardships of life that I had to go through. I’ve been through a lot already, and this injury is just another obstacle to overcome.
“Lastly, we’re in the world of combat sports. Not everybody knows this but, a fighter’s body is always in pain – whether during training or just by waking up in the morning. I was able to overcome the injury relatively quickly because it’s really second-nature to me at this point. I had to understand the right methods of recovery, what food I have to eat, and everything in between.”
‘Physically, It Gave Out’ – Adiwang Recalls Tough Setback In January
Although the mental side of his recovery was in order, Lito Adiwang still faced plenty of physical hurdles on his journey back from injury.
He initially planned to return to action in January, but his body didn’t agree and he reinjured his knee in training.
“Thunder Kid” recalled:
“We were super positive psychologically, but physically, it gave out. From there, I really had to surround myself with the proper advice and people, like the doctors and those with expert knowledge about this injury.
“I needed to balance out my positivity and eagerness since there really is a process that needs to happen. That’s what I went through for this recovery.”
The strawweight is now fully healed, ready to take on the division’s best, and on a mission to avenge his 2022 loss to Jeremy Miado.
Adiwang admits that his knee might never feel the same again, but he’s nonetheless confident that his explosive punching is still very much within him.
“I can be honest here and say that nothing beats the original (knee). One thing I noticed is that my knee right now is kind of deformed. The other would be my mobility feels a little bit off in the sense that before, I could stretch my knee with no problems, but now, there is a slight limitation to it.
“But the power and everything, I truly believe I’m back.”