Holdsworth: 'It would be hard for me to quit'

Dealing with lingering concussion-related symptoms, Chris Holdsworth is committed to sitting out the rest of 2015. Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS -- UFC bantamweight Chris Holdsworth is somewhat hesitant to discuss the lingering concussion-related symptoms that have kept him sidelined since May 2014.

Not because he finds it difficult to talk about. The reason he hesitates is because the last thing he wants from anyone right now is sympathy. Holdsworth is done with sympathy. He's past it.

"I'm not trying to give some sob story, man," Holdsworth told ESPN.com. "I'm on the rise. I'm coming back. That's what I want to focus on. I went through feeling depressed about it and now I want to be positive. I don't want people feeling bad for me."

Holdsworth (6-0) hasn't fought since a decision win against Chico Camus at UFC 173. He believes he suffered a concussion back in 2013, but he fought through the symptoms. During his training camp for the Camus fight, he suffered another one.

The 27-year-old says he has attempted to come back too soon on several occasions, which led to setbacks in the gym. Symptoms he had thought he was well past, returned.

He eventually agreed to see a specialist, but, in his words, 'there's no secret recipe for brain trauma.' Usually, his specialist's advice was contingent on the updates Holdsworth provided. There was no scan to take of his brain, that would give him a set timetable for a return. It's all essentially based on how Holdsworth is feeling.

Right now, Holdsworth, who trains out of Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, is committed to sitting out the rest of 2015. If he's symptom-free come 2016 (and has been for a good stretch of time), he'll call UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby and request a fight.

He says it's hard to say exactly when he last felt symptoms -- which include headaches, nausea and sensitivity to light and sound -- because he's learned to ignore some of them. He says he has, 'more good days than bad.'

"Some days I might feel something, a headache -- but that could be caused by all types of stuff," Holdsworth said. "When I feel I haven't had any issues for awhile, I'm going to give it a little longer to make sure everything is smooth and then I'll be ready.

"I'm saying next year for a return. I'm going to take this whole year off. I'll still do what I'm doing. I'll stay in shape. Right now, I have to look out for myself and my health."

Holdsworth, winner of The Ultimate Fighter 18 reality series, says there is no doubt regarding his eventual return. He was in Las Vegas this weekend to corner TAM teammate Paige VanZant at UFC 191 and says he badly misses the feel of fight week.

"At the end of the day, I miss this s---," Holdsworth said. "I'm here cornering Paige, going through the motions of fight week, and I really miss it. I still have that fire. It would be hard for me to quit. I'm f------ ready to get back in there, but in time."

The long cage absence has been equally as hard on Holdsworth's financial situation as it has been on his competitive nature. He's lost several sponsors within the last year, but says he's somewhat made up for it by teaching classes and working corners.

The actual training atmosphere at TAM has changed since Holdsworth's last fight as well. Holdsworth took well to former TAM striking coach Duane Ludwig's system, but Ludwig has since relocated to Colorado. Martin Kampmann, who replaced Ludwig at TAM, is expected to vacate the role shortly due to personal reasons. Holdsworth says he's not sure who his full time striking coach will be once he's cleared to return.

One thing he does know, however, is that his approach to training has changed. Holdsworth believes he used to spar far too frequently. He expects to ratchet that back considerably, if not completely.

"I didn't know a thing about brain trauma before this," Holdsworth said. "It's been a big eye-opener. One thing I've been doing is trying to help my teammates train smarter. We were sparring way too much. We'd spar multiple times per week, five-minute rounds. It's not good for you. And you get tired, it gets hot in California, you rip off the head gear. You really have to check your ego and do things right, play it safe.

"There's going to be a major change in training, now that the head stuff is more of an issue. In football and in MMA, it's a common topic. In the future, I won't even spar much during a fight camp. There are other ways to get ready."