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Wiman returns from extended seclusion

11/21/2014
Ross Dettman for ESPN

Lightweight Matt Wiman returns to the Octagon on Saturday for UFC Fight Night 57 in Austin, Texas. It will be his first action since January 2013.

His return, of course, begs the question: Where exactly was he?

Wiman (15-7) virtually disappeared after he suffered a first-round TKO loss to TJ Grant nearly two years ago. He's not active on social media and treasures his privacy. During his hiatus, updates on his status were hard to come by. The only thing most knew about him is they didn't know where he was.

Wiman, 31, told ESPN.com on Wednesday that the break was a chance to "lick his wounds" and recover from a long list of nagging injuries.

"I've been at this for a while now," Wiman said. "Fighting is the exact opposite of good for your body. I just got to a point I was battling too many injuries.

"Maybe [the loss to Grant] was the icing on the cake. It was probably a good time. It felt like insult to injury. You think to yourself, 'Oh man, if I push through these injuries in camp I'll get a reward at the end.' And then my reward was a crap sandwich."

Wiman, who will fight Isaac Vallie-Flagg (14-5-1) on Saturday's main card, didn't go into specifics but admitted he has underwent multiple surgeries in his career.

He pointed out that other fighters go through similar issues ("I'm not special," he said), but for him it reached a point last year that prompted him to stop.

When asked if he trained during his time off, Wiman paused, laughed and said, "No."

"I didn't train very much," he said. "Nope, didn't train very much."

Did he miss the sport, though, during that clean break from it?

"Not really," Wiman admitted. "I kind of liked not getting hurt for a minute."

A former contestant on "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series and a professional fighter since 2004, Wiman said people on the outside sometimes forget the brutality of the sport. He said he still loves to compete, which is why he's back, but he could go without the toll it takes on his body.

"I don't want this to come across as negative, but it almost seems like [the] Wild West to have a job like we do," Wiman said. "To have two guys in suits talking about it seems kind of silly to me.

"I've seen it normalized a lot, and this is not a normal thing at all. It's a fight. This is not a sport to me. Tell the guy who is licking blood off his hands that he was just in a sport. It's not a sport. It's a fight. Having middle-aged men in suits and ties talking about it seems -- not normal."

Nevertheless, Wiman said he is excited to be back in a fight week, and he feels relatively good, physically. Before his break, he had won five of his previous seven fights.

He has relocated his life to Portland, Oregon, since he was seen last. He is not affiliated with a particular gym, electing to find his own sparring partners from a handful of facilities.

Wiman is looking forward to facing Vallie-Flagg, who, like him, probably knows a thing or two about bumps and bruises due to his style.

"I think he's a fighter first," Wiman said. "He likes to go forward. He's a brawler and I'm a gamer, and I think that's a good fight for both of us. We have pretty similar styles."