03/10/2015 05:50 EDT | Updated 05/10/2015 05:59 EDT

Heavyweight Josh Copeland has no regrets about lying to doctor in UFC debut

After fighting his way into the UFC, heavyweight Josh (Cuddly Bear) Copeland wasn't about to exit early.

In his UFC debut last November, Copeland absorbed a high kick and was caught in the eye by Ruslan Magomedov's toe late in the second round.

"Instantly everything turned completely white," he recalled.

Copeland kept fighting even though he couldn't see out of the eye.

"I was blind in that eye for a couple of a weeks," he said. "You always think going in there, worst-case scenario you're going to break a bone or get knocked out or whatever. You don't really think of losing your eyesight."

Copeland recoiled in obvious pain when the kick landed. After the second round, when the doctor asked whether he could see out of his left eye, he replied, "yes."

He went to hospital immediately after losing a 29-28, 30-27, 30-27 decision.

"(Friend and cornerman) Justin Wren basically told me not to lie any more, because in there (the cage) I didn't want them to call the fight. So I did my best to play off it, (say) that I could see out of it. So that way I could keep fighting and hopefully catch him."

Copeland didn't, but still had his best round of the fight.

Looking back, has he rethought his decision to lie about the injury during the fight?

"I'm a fighter," he said. "It's kind of tough to take an easy way out, I guess.

"If I was sitting here blind in my left eye right now and you asked me that question, then of course the answer's going to be yes ... but looking back at it now, I was definitely glad I was able to go."

The 32-year-old Arkansas native, who fights out of Denver, considers himself "definitely blessed" that his vision came back.

Copeland says he was impressed by how the UFC treated him after the fight, changing travel plans and providing extra spending money for he and his wife so he could get more medical treatment.

"I was like, 'Holy Cow, they really do care about their fighters.' They didn't want me to fly out the next day without going in Monday to get a full checkup to make sure I could fly."

Copeland returns to action Saturday at UFC 185 in Dallas against Jared (The Big Show) Rosholt, ironically the one fighter he didn't want to face. He trained with Rosholt at Team Takedown in the Dallas-Fort Worth area before the Magomedov fight and was planning to make it a regular affair.

Copeland's camp texted UFC matchmaker Joe Silva in January to say the heavyweight was back training and ready to go again in mid-March or April against anyone but Rosholt.

Meanwhile, Rosholt's camp was lobbying to have him join teammate and former welterweight champion Johny (Bigg Rigg) Hendricks on the Dallas card.

Silva's response was, with only 40 active heavyweights, Rosholt (11-2) could fight Copeland (9-1).

"Kind of weird," said Copeland, who checked with the Rosholt camp before agreeing to the fight.

Anthony (Showtime) Pettis defends his lightweight title against No. 1 contender Rafael dos Anjos in the main event at American Airlines Center.

Copeland, a shot-putter at Dallas Baptist University, started training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu with former UFC fighter Travis Lutter. Wren came in one day and the two became best friends and training partners.

Copeland made his pro MMA debut in June 2012 with seven of his first nine fights ending in the first round. Married with a young son, Copeland now fights full-time.

The six-foot-one 265-pounder got his nickname after training in jiu-jitsu with Alvin Robinson, who used to say "Here comes the bear" when they rolled together.

"I thought the bear kind of sounded a little too mean so I just told him, 'Man I'm not a bear. I'm more like a cuddly bear.'"

Coach Trevor Wittman heard that and the Cuddly Bear moniker stuck.


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