Gunnar Nelson caused Leon Edwards to be booed in London but he lost three years of his UFC career due to ‘terrible’ injury from wrestling Hafthor Bjornsson and now returns for UFC 286

Gunnar Nelson is fast cementing himself as a London legend as he returns to the capital once again at UFC 286 next weekend.

The Icelandic grappler will be making only his second outing in the octagon in four years when he faces Bryan Barberena.


Leon Edwards after he defeated Gunnar Nelson in London

And both fights were staged in London, with Nelson making a victorious return to the MMA after three years away on the undercard of UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs. Aspinall in March 2022.

The primary reason for his extended break from the UFC was due to a wrestling encounter with Hafthor Bjornsson, also known as The Mountain in Game of Thrones.

Nelson once had so much support that home-town favourite Leon Edwards was audibly booed inside the O2 Arena when they competed at UFC London in March 2019.

The 34-year-old suffered a gruesome eye injury on route to suffering a split decision loss to the now-Welterweight champion.

Nelson managed to recover before a unanimous decision defeat to Gilbert Burns six months later.

But then the Straight Blast Gym member – which makes him a teammate of Conor McGregor – wasn’t seen for years.

The size difference was profound to say the least

Nelson is 5ft 9ins and competes at 170lbs in the UFC, which is just over 12 stone.

Bjornsson is 6ft 7ins and weighs 22 stone right now, but he has weighed as heavy as 32 stone prior to agreeing to box Eddie Hall, a fight that he won.

The difference between the two men is gargantuan and as fun as it sounded to take on the man mountain like his teammate McGregor did in a spar, wrestling him was not a good idea.

Speaking to Ariel Helwani late last year, Nelson revealed just how bad his injuries from wrestling Bjornsson left him.

The pair recreated the iconic scene from Game of Thrones

“I had a really bad injury that took a long time to recover from, I had two rib injuries back-to-back. I don’t know if you’ve had a rib injury but it’s horrible. It takes a long time and they can be so crippling.

“They’re just terrible it was at the top here so it affects the shoulder, affects the breathing, affects everything. I had two, on each side, but separate injuries.”

The first injury was fairly routine from fighting, but the second came from refusing to give into the mammoth man mountain.

“That’s what happened. It was two injuries, one of them that I’d had a while ago, actually, just before the [Gilbert] Burns fight. I went into that fight, fought that fight and recovered.

When around 25 stone of pure muscle is on you, any normal man would break

“Then, later, I got a probably even worse injury on the other side of my rib. Yeah, f*** it. You’ve probably seen the video of me and The Mountain rolling. This is where it happened actually.”

Thor isn’t aware of the damage that he did and that’s mostly because Nelson’s ego wouldn’t let him admit he was hurt.

“I haven’t spoken to him about it,” Nelson said.” I don’t think he knows but I think this is the first time I’ve spoken about it. It happened there, it was fun, I enjoyed it but I wanted to get an armbar from the bottom.

“It was my mission because, obviously, it’s a hard thing against somebody like him and he knows a little bit. He knows how to use his weight a bit and he’s 160 kilos of pure muscle.”

“I catch him with an armbar from the top but I want to get it from the bottom and so I try to do that in the second round, he collapses on top of me and I could feel a nasty pop and seconds after.

“I could just feel it swelling up but something in me was like, I’m not going to say anything now, I’m just going to finish the round.

“It happens again where I get curled up like this and he pulls all his weight and at this stage I’m just having real problems with my arm and breathing and stuff.

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Nelson got back in the win column for UFC in March 2022

“I’m just thinking, ‘I have to wait for him to show his neck and we can get this over with’ because it’s too late to stop now and say that I hurt myself.”

“It was a really fun thing but it was probably stupid… I probably should have stopped when it happened.”

Nelson managed to return at UFC London last year and get a unanimous decision victory over Takashi Sato.

He now aptly returns to England on the same card as Edwards still fresh from the memory of withstanding ‘the power of Thor‘.

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