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Benoit Saint Denis reveals staph infection, bad weight cut led to ‘worst fight week’ at UFC 299


Benoit Saint Denis never seriously considering dropping out of his fight against Dustin Poirier at UFC 299, but he definitely paid for that decision.

Despite a valiant effort to get the win, the French lightweight ultimately suffered a brutal second-round knockout, which served as his second setback since joining the UFC roster. Saint Denis revealed afterward that his conditioning was zapped from a round of antibiotics he took to battle an infection that could’ve cancelled his fight.

As it turns out, Saint Denis actually had a staph infection on his forehead that was diagnosed two days before he was scheduled to leave for Miami to compete at UFC 299.

“The last sparring session, I had this ugly stuff on my forehead,” Saint Denis said Wednesday on The MMA Hour. “It was two days before leaving France, last Friday was the last sparring session. I had been leaving Saturday. Out of respect for everybody, you have to take treatment when you notice something like that.

“I called the doctor and we tried to figure out a process to try to be in the best shape possible and to make the fight happen. To be in fight shape that is good enough to be respectable for your opponent, to give the people the fight they want to see because you are the co-main event of such a huge fight.”

Saint Denis also struggled with his weight cut in the final days leading up to the fight and that only further exacerbated the issues he faced from the round of antibiotics coursing through his body.

“I was tired the whole week with the staph infection,” Saint Denis said. “Maybe this is also my fault. I came in a bit too heavy. With the treatment I took, the weight was not going down as [easily] and I had two more kilograms to cut before the weight cut, and it was too difficult. I paid the day after. I had no reflexes. I was out of form.”

After first arriving in Miami, Saint Denis sat down with his team to discuss whether or not he should actually compete, but it didn’t take him long to realize the risk was worth the potential reward.

“Tuesday, we had the debate … it didn’t take a long time to convince myself to make it happen anyway,” Saint Denis said. “With a staph infection, sometimes in five days you’re getting in better shape. Sometimes in one week, sometimes in eight days. The problem was with the stress and the weight cut, the infection, my body didn’t manage to do both things — didn’t manage to cut the weight being on a very strict diet and at the same time treat the infection.

“Maybe it could have been something that worked. Maybe if I had less kilograms to lose, which I will work on for the next fight, maybe I would have been in very good condition and it would not have affected me this way and I would have been ready to give my all. Even given these conditions, it’s difficult when you have a huge opportunity like that to say no.”

Even with his body working against him, Saint Denis still came storming out of the gate and he had his moments in the fight with Poirier.

Unfortunately, Saint Denis says he only had about five minutes to give, and he was already running on fumes by the time the second round started.

“I was very slow,” Saint Denis said. “My kicks were sloppy as hell. You can see my first kick at two minutes at the beginning of the fight, it was a [body] kick, it was terrible. In my fight with Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos in the third round, I was in better shape than the first round against Poirier. It was my fault. We are professionals. We are trying our best to be the best shape possible.

“I won the first round but I’m the one in despair, because I know it’s over. I couldn’t take the opportunities there.”

Saint Denis promises that before he contracted the staph infection, he was more than ready to face Poirier in the biggest opportunity of his career. It was only after he arrived in Miami that he began to realize his dream fight was slowly transforming into a living nightmare.

“The worst fight week,” Saint Denis said. “I had very bad news for my health. I just couldn’t cancel. It can happen to everybody to be sick during fight week. We have two legs and two arms, we are human, we are not robots. I was hoping with the treatment that I took for my staph infection, I was hoping that after five days of taking antibiotics, I would be in good health, at least 90 percent and be ready to have this huge opportunity and to be able to give him a good fight also. Because out of respect for him. I would love to have a bit more energy to give him more than five minutes.”

Saint Denis isn’t consumed with regret due to the loss, because he made the choice to step into the cage that night and go to war with Poirier even if he wasn’t close to full health.

All he can hope now is that he’ll eventually earn the chance to avenge that loss somewhere down the road as he continues his pursuit of becoming a UFC champion.

“I need to get my ticket back to such an opportunity again,” Saint Denis said. “Of course, even in good health, maybe I would have gotten knocked out by Poirier. He’s a great fighter, an amazing fighter. I hope I will work my way back to having this kind of opportunity and to show that this day it was not the ‘God of War’ in there.

“I will give you my best again as soon as possible. I will make the adjustments to try to be at my best in the fight, because a fight against a guy like this, you cannot be diminished.”

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