SACRAMENTO, CA - A mixed martial arts fighter in Sacramento is trying to get back on his feet after he suffered a critical injury during training at Ultimate Fitness where Urijah Faber is a part-owner.
Devin Johnson, 22, was sparring at the facility, located on the 1700 block of I Street on May 14 when he fell while in a headlock.
When Devin arrived at UC Davis Medical Center he was paralyzed. The impact from the fall dislocated Devin's spine.
"I was in shock at first. It wasn't really sinking in. It didn't really sink in -- and hasn't really sunk in yet either," said Johnson's girlfriend Tayler Miller, who quit her job to support him through this tragedy.
"It's sad, but he keeps me going. He's so strong, he just is a fighter. He keeps me going. If he can be this strong I can be as strong as he is," said Miller.
PHOTOS: Local MMA fighter Devin Johnson deals with critical injury
"What Mr. Johnson, unfortunately, had was injury between his fourth and fifth spine in his neck," said Dr. Kee Kim, Chief of Spinal Neurosurgery at UC Davis Medical Center.
Johnson's spine slipped and caused damage to the spinal cord, causing what's called facet fracture-dislocation. Kim used a metal implant to stabilize Johnson's spine. It was his first time treating a patient who suffered a spinal cord injury from MMA.
Initially, doctors told the family of Johnson it would take a miracle for him to recover. His chances were less than five percent.
Johnson is now awake and speaking from his hospital bed. He uses a ventilator to breathe and has feeling in his right arm.
"I was surprised that he has improved to that degree in such a short time, because,what I would have expected, what I would have predicted, was that there would not be improvement at all during that time period," said Kim.
"It's a long road ahead, especially for a young person who is healthy and vibrant and active."
Johnson has always dreamed of being in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He now wants to get out of bed and back to the gym.
"Hopefully we'll see him walking soon. That's our goal, that's his goal. He told me he's going to stay strong, he's never going to give up. It's going to be a long recovery but he'll never give up. I know he won't," said Miller.
In a phone conversation, Urijah Faber said he was not at the gym during Johnson's accident, but was aware of what happened. Faber shared his concern and support for the MMA fighter's recovery.
Johnson was scheduled to make his professional debut in September.
Mixed martial arts is a full-contact sport that combines boxing, wrestling, jui-jitsu and other techniques.
Family and friends set up a website to update people on Devin Johnson's progress. There's also information where you can make a donation to his medical expenses.