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Siscoe, Survivor

By Brett Auten | Knuckle Junkies

It has to happen. Amid all of that raw emotion, like an exposed nerve ending, it has to happen.

"The switch will have to be flipped definitely on fight night," AJ Siscoe said. "He's not coming over here to lay down, I promise you."

In a story line that is made for the cinema, on Friday night the crescendo that is Siscoe's journey back to professional mixed martial arts will ripple through a packed River City Casino.

In 2015, shortly after his June Bellator debut, Siscoe received the news that changed him forever; he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. That fall, Knuckle Junkies had a long sit down with Siscoe, which you can read HERE, where he talked about the details and turmoils of the diagnosis.

Hell bent on returning to the cage, Siscoe received the all-clear sign from his team of doctor's early in 2016 to return to the lifestyle that is this 26-year-old's passion.

On Friday, Siscoe will stand across the cage from Chris Reed. Reed is no gimmie opponent. He went 8-2 as an amateur and is 2-3 as a pro, winning his last two fights by submission. Siscoe has fought normally at 135-pounds but with all that is on his plate, he and his team thought it wise to return to action at 145.

"My first goal was that I was going to beat this and get back to fighting, my second goal is to get back to Bellator, and my third goal, which is most important out of all of this, was that I was going to change somebody's life who has been given something terrible and change it for the positive," Siscoe said. "If my story reaches one person that needs it then it is worth every second that I put into it. I'm 0-2 right now. If I can turn this around I'm going to give back to someone and show them that they can do anything. It's going to get to someone who needs it."

Siscoe had won six of his last eight amateur fights before turning pro in April 2015. His venture into the pro ranks have been met with two submission losses, but whether or not Siscoe was inflicted with cancer during that time is up to debate between his doctors.

"I think I'm way better than I was before I got sick," Siscoe said. "A lot of people don't know this, but I was in talks to fight in June (at Bellator 157). I was yes, Finney was yes, but my coaches were no. It was so frustrating. That was my whole goal to come back and fight (for Bellator). Now looking back, I'm so glad I took the extra time and waited."

Siscoe has added a key member to his coaching staff. Kevin Engel, one of the top pros in the region with a long boxing history and reputation for slinging leather, has helped Siscoe polish up his rough striking edges.

"I worked with (Engel) for about month, doing privates and him holding mitts," Siscoe said. "Slowly but surely the ball started rolling and I started working out with members of his team. It has worked into a nice relationship."

Engel will be in Siscoe's corner along with Siscoe's longtime jiu-jitsu coach JW Wright and also John Perrine. That trio won't be the only ones having Siscoe's back.

"I was able to sell tickets to some of the nurses that helped me and I will have a couple of cancer patients in the crowd," Siscoe said. "I'm extremely honored to represent to cancer community with people who are both battling the disease and people who are helping others battle the disease."

Siscoe is not afraid to wear his emotions on his sleeve. Most of his pre-fight interviews are understandably emotional with tears and froggy throat included. But he isn't embarrassed by his emotions.

"This is a tough man's sport where you try to be as hard as you can, tattooed, and smack talking," he said. "That's not me. After I did my Shamrock promotional video I was like, man, I sounded so whiny and so boo-hoo. But after watching it I was like, I'm proud of that. I'm proud of everything I came through, everything I accomplished. I have said it over and over and I'll keep saying it, my story is going to touch some little kid that just got diagnosed with cancer and some doctor is telling him the same shit they told me, that they can't move on, that they can't do this and that they can't do that. I'm here to tell you it doesn't matter what a doctor tells you. Fight it and bounce back."