“The worst part is dealing with everybody afterward, because they all thought I was dead,” Mitchell told ESPN.com. “Everybody that I knew was crying.
“On the bright side, that was the easiest fight for me. I’ve never had a fight where I’ve come out feeling so great. I just woke up in the ambulance and barely remembered what happened. There’s no pain, I’m telling you. But everybody was crying, and they thought I was dead; I’m not exaggerating.”
Mitchell crumpled to the canvas and began convulsing after taking a right hand from Josh Emmett, whom he later thanked for not throwing follow-up punches he believes “probably would have killed me.” Emmett told MMA Fighting he knew Mitchell was out and saw no need to issue further punishment.
The UFC Performance Institute in 2021 released a detailed return-to-sport protocol for fighters who’d suffered a concussion. The protocol advises the fighters take a concussion assessment test called SCAT5 to evaluate the severity of the injury. Then, it advises a slow return to activity that stays away from contact that could jar the brain. A physician is recommended to clear a fighter for full contact sparring.
Mitchell, however, said he’s taking matters into his own hands and staying away from sparring altogether for six months as a precautionary measure.
“I’m on my own concussion protocol,” Mitchell told ESPN.com. “I’ll consult with my coaches, too, and we’re basically just saying, ‘You know, don’t spar for six months.’ I’ve got to [build a new house] and [I’m expecting my first child], but then I’m right into my next training camp after that. The good thing is that I don’t have to rush into it.”
Mitchell’s twitching reaction to the knockout triggered a wave of concern over his safety, but he downplayed his response, saying “I do that in my sleep anyway. So, I’m not really worried about that part.”
What Mitchell was more concerned about in hindsight was the procedures of the Nevada Athletic Commission, which oversaw UFC 296. He argued the commission should have been more firm in making sure he didn’t hurt himself immediately afterward.
“When a fighter gets knocked out that bad – and I was watching the fight back for film study – when I saw how bad the knockout was, I watched the whole thing, and I watched what they did with me afterward, and I was talking afterward, I was shaking hands and stumbling around – dude, they need to immediately escort me out of there, and I really do think that needs to be protocol,” he said. “Because from my standpoint, I can’t remember nothing, and I would much rather – say I get knocked out again – I’d much rather them to just escort me out of there as soon as I’m up on my feet, and I mean up [pick me up] under the armpits, and not even talk to me or nothing. Just get me out of there as quickly as possible. But they still did good. …
“They did escort me out eventually, but I don’t even think they should even talk to me in that cage, because I was probably arguing with them, telling them, ‘Oh, I’m fine, I can walk’ – I don’t even know what I was saying. But yeah, they need to get me out of the cage, and I’m glad that they did, and that’s just how they need to do that, because as fighters, they could stumble around and fall and hurt their head even worse.”
A veteran of The Ultimate Fighter 27, Mitchell emerged from the show as a fierce submission threat, once pulling off the second-ever Twister submission in the octagon. He won six straight fights after appearing on the reality show before his first setback, a submission loss to current featherweight title challenger Ilia Topuria. He then outpointed Dan Ige before his loss to Emmett, a short-notice opportunity he took with the injury withdrawal of Giga Chikadze.