May 25, 2016 is a day that will live in infamy for Darrell Horcher, although he can't remember that much about it.
It was that Wednesday evening when Horchers motorcycle collided with a 2006 Ford Escape while he was riding with a friend, and the UFC lightweight was thrown from his bike before skidding down the road.
Horcher's motorcycle exploded as if a bomb had gone off inside of it, and his friend was also caught in the shrapnel after the bike was torn apart from the impact. From that moment on, Horcher had no memory of what exactly happened outside of second-hand accounts from his friend who kept an eye on him until emergency personnel arrived.
Due to the extent of his injuries, Horcher was taken in a helicopter to the nearest medical facility for treatment.
"I don't remember from about three hours prior [to the accident] to about a week later," Horcher revealed. "There are bits and parts I remember from being in the hospital but I forgot most of what happened in the hospital. They life-lined me, and I tell people it was the most expensive helicopter ride I'll never remember."
Once he arrived, doctors began assessing the damage done to his body from the motorcycle crash after stabilizing him. Horcher recounted all the injuries he suffered from that fateful day.
Torn ACL's (anterior cruciate ligament) both knees
Torn PCL's (posterior cruciate ligament) in both knees
MCL (medial collateral ligament) injury in left knee and LCL (lateral collateral ligament) replacement in right knee
Bone graft on his right knee cap
Broken arm with compound fracture
Despite Pennsylvania not requiring motorcyclists to wear helmet, Horcher was wearing his that day or he has no doubt that he probably wouldn't have survived.
"It was me and a buddy riding together when the car pulled out in front of us. He said we were going 60 or 65 [miles-per-hour]. So I hit the car doing 60, she pulled out, and I just know what I was told but I guess I shouldered into the SUV. I hit the car at a 45-degree angle, I shouldered into it, and my bike exploded," Horcher described when speaking to FOX Sports. "My momentum carried me over the car, and they said I flew just over 100 yards down the road.
"I actually landed in the grass so that probably saved me a lot. I was well over 100 yards from the accident where I landed and stopped moving."
Horcher says when his friend finally found him more than a football field away from the site of the accident, he was apparently conscious and talking, although he doesn't remember speaking to him at all after the crash.
"I don't remember it but my buddy said I was conscious. Because he got taken out by my bike exploding, so he came up and ran to me and he had road rash and hurt his hand, but overall he was OK. So he ran up to check on me and he said I was conscious and that I was joking with him that I took it like a champ and the car didn't hurt me," Horcher said.
"Then all of a sudden I said 'my arm really hurts' and 'my legs really hurt, help me up."
As it turns out, the arm was the only broken bone Horcher suffered, although he says his ulna in the forearm came through the skin, which can be a rather gruesome sight.
While Horcher was only semi-conscious through all of this, he says his wife was instrumental in not only his recovery but also guaranteeing that he would have a chance to fight again after this was all over.
Horcher explained that the emergency room physicians immediately prepped him for surgery to repair the damage to his knees after both were torn apart during the accident, but his wife wasted no time ensuring that her husband was getting the best possible care even hours after his accident.
"I'm in the emergency room and they're telling my wife they've got to do surgeries on my arms, surgeries on my legs. She looked at him and said what's your credentials? He said he was an emergency room physician and she said no, he needs a sports doctor, you're not touching him," Horcher revealed.
"As I'm hooked up to machines in the intensive care unit, she's telling him you're not qualified to touch my husband."
The few moments Horcher remembers through those few days he spent in the hospital mostly revolved around doctors explaining to him that he would probably never fight again, and his counter argument that he would absolutely comeback.
It might sound crazy considering he just avoided a near-death situation, but Horcher's mind was already shifting towards his return to action even while laid up a hospital bed.
"I remember the doctor telling me I would probably never fight again, and I remember looking at him and saying 'you're crazy, by September I'll be training, I'm going to fight next summer you watch," Horcher said. "I was in the intensive care unit, and I was telling this guy in seven or eight months I would be training."
When he was finally released from the hospital, Horcher was given a wheelchair to help him move around the house, and his wife was advised that she might have to help him go to the bathroom while he started his recovery.
That was never going to work for Horcher, who flat-out refused the assistance while already putting it in his mind that the path back to the Octagon would begin with a single step, even if that was just hobbling to the bathroom.
"I'm stubborn, and I feel like there's a line. I let my wife help me with a lot but there's a limit," Horcher said with a laugh. "I'm going to go to the bathroom alone. The day I got home, my friends carried me into my living room. I refused to use the wheelchair.
"The next day I got up and used my walker, and they said I wouldn't be able to use the walker for weeks."
Horcher was actually put on blood thinners to prevent potential clots in his legs because he wasn't supposed to be walking, but it didn't take long for doctors to take him off the medication as he was up and around in a matter of weeks instead of months.
After four months, Horcher says he could finally move with more mobility once his kidney and liver had recovered from injuries. By September, Horcher had teammates joining him at home so he could do light work on the mitts just to stay in the best shape possible for his return.
"My training partners would come over and they would hold mitts for me. Just so I could move. I felt like I was withering away to nothing. I lost almost 30 pounds of muscle mass just sitting doing nothing. By December, I was cleared to spar, light sparring, just nothing on the legs. I wasn't super mobile but I wasn't allowed to grapple yet," Horcher said.
"I didn't get cleared to grapple until January. In February, I was doing a grappling competition and I was cleared to fight in March."
The news is out, I'll be making my return to the @ufc octagon this June in OKC! This has been a very long road and I can't wait to get back in there! Let's do this #teamsaint #2017return #riseofthesaint #mma #ufcokc
A post shared by Darrell "The Saint" Horcher (@horchermma) on
Horcher doesn't take for granted just how miraculous his recovery has been much less that he was able to think about fighting again just 10 months after suffering through a motorcycle accident that could have easily killed him under different circumstances.
Of course, he also knows just how strong his willpower was from the very first moment he woke up from the accident until he was cleared to return to the gym full-time.
"If you believe it, your body will follow. I've always said that I'm mentally strong to a fault. I really think in this it helped. My brain told my body 'you're going to heal and you're going to fight," Horcher said.
"My wife would ask [my physical therapist] 'is he ever going to perform at 100-percent again?' and every time he would say 'yes' but I could kind of tell he was looking at her and shaking his head no. Then about two visits ago, he said 'Darrell, I would always say yes because you were pushing yourself and I thought it would help but I want you to know, now I can tell you with 100-percent certainty you will compete at 100-percent again."
Horcher being able to recover from the accident was a huge accomplishment and then to begin training again less than a year later was an epochal occasion. After suffering through so much, Horcher says the sweetest moment came when he received a call from his manager with an official offer from the UFC to return to action.
"When my manager [Brian Butler] told me I got the fight, it was surreal," Horcher said. "I couldn't believe it. I have a text from my wife from today that says 'is this real life?' She was just as dumbfounded by it as I am. That's where I'm at now. I'm so excited and I'm so happy.
"Of course, I'm nervous. I had to learn how to run again. I had to learn how to jump again. I walked funny. I have stage fright so I get anxiety before fights. I'm excited, but Im nervous at the same time."
The nerves will undoubtedly give way to the adrenaline rush that Horcher can't wait to feel when he steps back into the Octagon on June 25 for his fight against Devin Powell in Oklahoma City.
Horcher can't guarantee victory because nothing is guaranteed in mixed martial arts.
The only thing he can promise is that no fighter will ever break him in a fight because what Horcher has gone through in this past year has definitely tested his body, but it also proved that his mind is absolutely unbeatable.
"I joke with my friends all the time. I totaled a car, what is an opponent going to do to me?" Horcher said. "He's not going to hit me with a 4,000-pound car. What's he going to do? There's no quit in me. I'll go until my body can't go.
"Mentally, I don't think I can be broken."
As far as riding motorcycles, Horcher says he was a huge enthusiast before the crash but his wife ensured that he'll never go through something like that again because she sold all of his bikes before he even got out of the hospital.
Horcher makes his return to action at UFC Fight Night: Chiesa vs. Lee on Sunday night, June 25 with the main card kicking off at 9 p.m. ET on FS1 with the prelims airing live on FS2 starting at 7 p.m. ET.