One thing after another and Gabriel Barletta is still waiting to return to the cage.
The 26-year-old is in the midst of a 15-month layoff from the cage, the longest break of his career. Barletta underwent surgery for the first time after suffering an LCL tear during training in 2019.
Barletta was medically cleared by doctors in February, directly before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m starving my friend,” Barletta said.
“It’s been almost 10 months to a year since I got to do what I was put on the earth for. It’s different, you really find out more about yourself in this type of situation. I’ve been grateful enough to grow from it.”
The show must go on
In a period where Barletta is facing obstacles out of his control, he is taking matters into his own hands. He started physical therapy just two days after undergoing surgery. The only reason he did not start his recovery earlier is because of the Anastasia from the operation.
A member of American Top Team in Florida, Barletta is currently unable to train at the gym due to pandemic restrictions. Whether he is driving an hour and a half to Miami, or training closer to Cocunut Creek, Bartletta is working with a close-knit group of teammates.
Adversity is something all too familiar to Barletta recently.
“Pandemic, no pandemic. Injury, no injury,” Barletta said. “It’s always something, I am never going to be complacent, I am nover going to be stagnant because that is just negative in life I feel.”
His LCL injury kept him away from more than just competition, also the Maverick MMA Lightweight Championship. Barletta was slated to fight Travis Foster for the vacant title at Maverick MMA 14 in Stroudsburg, Pa. in September 2019.
The potential title shot came after his Maverick debut in March 2019. He defeated Andy Jimenez by first-round TKO [injury] at Maverick MMA 12.
“He [Foster] and I went back-and forth for a moment because I pulled out, which understandably, it’s not fun when your opponent pulls out, especially so close. I’m sure he was looking forward to it as much as I was,” Barletta said. “I would love to still get that belt at some point.”
Barletta is unconcerned with who his next fight is against. Foster is always an option, but Barletta will take a fight either way. Rather than going after opponents, he is chasing belts.
Northeast regional promotions like Maverick MMA are still waiting to come back from the pandemic.
Luckily for Barletta, his state of residency, Florida, hosted three UFC events in May and Titan Fighting Championships 60 on May 29.
Fighting in his home state is still an option. Regardless of where his next fight is, he has Maverick MMA on his radar. Barletta even messaged Maverick MMA President Willy Sisca.
Recovered from his injury and awaiting his return to the cage, Barletta wants to finish what he started.
“I am very grateful to be back, I learned a lot from it and I can’t wait to show everyone, whether it be at Maverick, down here, anyone, anywhere, show them what I’ve learned,” Barletta said. “In reality, we’re prize fighters, so the biggest prize possible.”