LAS VEGAS - Eight months ago, Eddie Gordon won three fights to reach Sunday's "Ultimate Fighter" finale, and he did so with a shattered toe.
That injury happened during a training session only a few days before he left to begin filming the 19th season of the UFC's reality competition series.
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Gordon, a Serra-Longo middleweight from Freeport, was kicking pads when he felt something go awry.
"I pick up my shin guard, my middle toe, I see blood everywhere," Gordon said.
"I felt the bone in my hand," coach Eric Hyer said. "I heard a crunch."
Hyer wrapped the foot in gauze, and Gordon hobbled his way to a nearby medical office.
Surgery wasn't an option in Gordon's mind. This was days away from the biggest fighting opportunity for the 30-year-old father of two with a full-time job as a sales consultant for a home remodeling company.
He couldn't risk missing a chance to compete on "The Ultimate Fighter" and go after a guaranteed contract with the UFC. Not after he had lost out on the opportunity to be on Season 17 of the show.
"What am I going to have to do to get a break?" Gordon said. "Not a break, but a different break."
He also couldn't tell anyone why.
"I can't tell you why I'm not having surgery, but I'm not having surgery," Gordon said to the doctor, recalling his emotions at that moment. "If you have to cut this off . . . I don't need it. I got a big opportunity, I'm not missing it, I don't care what you say."
Gordon went to the hospital, where he said he had the tendons in his toe sewn together.
In those tense moments, his immediate health and fighting future unclear, Gordon found something else to occupy his mind. His two boys. One was mad that he left his iPad at home. The other was crying. "I don't want my dad to have one missing toe," Gordon recalled his son saying.
That's when Gordon summoned the most strength - to keep from laughing.
At no point afterward did Gordon consider pulling out of the show. He'd worked too hard to reach this moment, going from a 300-pound former football player at Fordham to a 185-pound middleweight with a shot at the big leagues.
Frankie Edgar, Gordon's coach on "TUF," said he knew about the toe. Very few, if any, others involved with the show did. Gordon said he wore sneakers whenever possible during the show.
"Eddie is a very strong dude," Edgar said.
The toe still doesn't bend the way it should, Gordon said late last week during a training session at Mandalay Bay as he prepared to fight Dhiego Lima for the "TUF" title.
"I guarantee you one thing, if you don't try, you're gonna lose," Gordon said. "I'm not afraid to fail, if it's gonna lead me to success."