Santiago Ponzinibbio’s return to MMA didn’t go as planned.

The Argentine returned to action at UFC on ABC 1 on Saturday in Abu Dhabi after a layoff of more than two years. Ponzinibbio (27-3 MMA, 9-2 UFC), who hadn’t competed since November 2018, suffered a first-round knockout loss to Li Jingliang.

It was an unfortunate result for Ponzinibbio, who was more than a 3-1 favorite in the fight. He was coming back from an infection that almost cost his life; a broken toe; and a month’s worth of positive tests for COVID-19. It was a long road back for the 34-year-old, who was looking to make a big statement in his return.

“I have no words to describe the sadness I feel,” Ponzinibbio wrote on Instagram. “I wanted to return giving a victory, you deserve it for so much support. I worked very hard for this event, a whole year of preparation but this sport is like that, there is a part out of control, a blow that comes in and everything ends. I want to thank all the messages and the love of always! All my life I forged it on adversity, this time it will be no different. I’m coming back stronger than ever.”

The defeat to Jingliang snapped a seven-fight winning streak for Ponzinibbio.  Prior to his career coming to a halt in 2018, Ponzinibbio was ranked in the top 10 of the UFC’s official welterweight rankings.