Gabe Ruediger sat in his dressing room inside the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, several minutes away from his first fight in eight months, and his mind raced.
"I'm saying to myself, 'Why am I even here?'" Ruediger said. "I'm asking my corner man, 'Do you think I can win?' He said, 'I can't tell you that. Only you can decide.'"
In the previous 16 months, Ruediger had become one of the most controversial fighters throughout mixed martial arts, from his infamous appearance on the fifth season of "The Ultimate Fighter" to a battle with the California State Athletic Commission to surgery that fused vertebrae in his neck. He prepared for the August 2008 matchup with Justin Wilcox in Fighting 4 Kidz hoping for a new beginning, but the decision loss could've threatened his career.