It’s been over two years since lightweight Tom O’Connor last stepped into the cage following a series of events that might have had other fighters questioning why they continue to pursue a career as a professional fighter.

A concussion, a ligament injury, followed by the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic may have kept O’Connor from fighting since July of 2018, but he’s stuck to his guns, worked hard and is finally ready to get back to fighting.

“At first (the layoff) was due to injury,” O’Connor told “It started with the concussion, then I blew my MCL, and it felt like an eternity (recovering from that), then Covid hit and that sidelined me longer.

“(Recovering from the concussion) was tricky, but then after that I just went back into everything I needed to do to get back 100%, then the same thing with the knee. Just follow the right plan to make sure you’re 100%, your body is healthy, and you’re able to compete.”

Through everything O’Connor took to heart just what it takes to be a professional fighter and it helped him reaffirm his commitment to continuing on with his career.

“There’s so little room for error in this sport that you need your body to be 100%, so I learned what it takes to come back from an injury and how much commitment you have to have to the lifestyle,” said O’Connor.

“If you don’t do everything you need to do every day that would put you two days back. You want to make sure you’re always going forward, not backward.”

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On Wednesday in Atlanta, O’Connor (8-1) makes his return to fighting as part of the first round of the lightweight grand prix at XFC 43 versus Jose Cacares (15-10).

“I’m going to put the pressure on him and just try to drown him with my pressure,” O’Connor said of Cacares. “Whether that’s standing, the ground, or a mixture of the two, I’m going to try to dominate from the opening bell to the finish and try to put him away.

“Jose is super talented, has fought the best in the world, is experienced and has been around longer than I have, and has put his time in. I think he’s going to be a really well-rounded martial artist and dangerous everywhere, so I’m not taking him lightly anywhere, but I’m coming out to impose my will on him, and take it to him from start to finish.”

With various possibilities for opposition ahead of him in the tournament, there could be many different things on O’Connor’s mind, but having gone through what he has the past two years he’s going to focus his efforts into his bout with Cacares and nothing beyond that for now.

“I’m not thinking past Jose,” said O’Connor. “I’m focused on this one moment.

“It’s all coming down to November 11 at the moment I get locked in the cage that’s when everything has to peak and that’s what I’m focused on. I’m focused on the one moment and then I’ll prepare for the next one after that.”