Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

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Saturday, 28 March 2015

“Cage Fighter Floored by Sea Snake”

Here’s a bit of my life story. At the end of 2005 I was bitten by a sea snake and nearly lost my leg. It made the papers, Zoo and Nuts magazine, with the immortal headline “Cage Fighter Floored by Sea Snake”. The headline, and the reporting, made me laugh. But it was good publicity. 

I fought and defeated the French K-1 star Gregory Tony, fighting him in Germany. The following week my wife and I disappeared off to Egypt for a holiday. The final destination was Sharm El Sheik. The last day we went on a snorkel safari, and at one stage I nearly got blown onto the reef as the currents that day were strong. I pushed back to the boat, got on board, and my ankle immediately started to swell. 

Four hours later I had flu like symptoms and my leg was blowing up. It was OK though as we were getting on the plane home. By the time we landed at Heathrow I couldn’t put weight on my leg and it had blown right out, my taxi driver friend Richard helping me into the taxi home. 

The flu like symptoms passed within around 24 hrs but my leg had a severe infection. It turned out to be a staphylococcus infection causing cellulitis. I was in a great deal of pain from my skin, which was appearing like it was burnt. Even a sheet going across it in bed was agony. 

I was in and out of hospital that week, and it was a radiographer who noticed the pin pricks, my bloods were carried out, and their best suggestion was that I had kicked a sea snake as I was snorkelling which had bitten me – me not noticing as I was driving back to the boat. Fortunately it’s hard to be bitten by one cleanly due to the nature of their teeth; I also was in fine health and large volume. This had accounted for my flu like symptoms, and also why my oxygen count was so low. It had knocked my immune system into touch however allowing the infection from the bite to take hold. 

We fought it for several days before I was admitted to hospital. There the surgeons opened me up and strawberry milkshake poured out. They told me time was off the essence and they were rushing me straight in for surgery – and that when I awoke I may not have my leg. I told them “do your best then, just get me down there now if time is of the essence”, and off I went. 

Fortunately I awoke to find my leg there. I’d lost lots of flesh from inside my lower right leg. They had operated to clear the infection through two large holes which ‘tracked’ together. I could see my tendons move like in a Terminator movie. I couldn’t put any weight on my leg for a month. The medical team were superb in every respect – the British NHS is often criticised yet I had exceptional service and attention. I was in for five days before released, having to hyperventilate to pass the oxygen test that allowed me to leave – I still wasn’t oxygenating my blood properly.

After two months I did my first training session with Steve Fox. I was used to doing intense 45 minute rounds – yet here I was dead after a minute. My training team stuck with me and coaxed me back to full fitness in a short space of time – and all the time I was still receiving medical attention as my leg was growing back and the wounds clearing. 

I needed to get fit quick – just four months after the incident I was due to fight Carter Williams – K-1 USA Champion in his prime – in Ohio, opening the Arnold Classic for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Fortunately the medical team were doing wonders, my family were still helping me out nicely, and my team were being awesome as always. Fitness was returning fast - and my leg was quickly recovering.

The week before the fight I was finally cleared to fly by the medical team and off we went. I fought Carter in front of an 18,000 live audience and millions watching on PPV – and won! Just four months after nearly losing my leg I had defeated one of the most feared fighters on the K-1 circuit, and at a prestigious event too. 

As I think back I only managed to do this thanks to my fighting spirit and humour. A great medical team doing everything they could. My training team were quite simply awesome. My wife and my family for helping me every step of the way – in the early days waiting on me hand and foot even, as I couldn’t stand even with crutches. 

It’s a nice little journey to remember – nearly losing my leg to defeating a feared fighter. It reminds me that anything is possible, and it is easier to if you have the right people around you. 

So to everyone who helped me at that time – thank you so much, you know who you are, and every time I see the scars I’m reminded of your support with a smile. I know what the scars represent. 

Just thought I’d pop this in a blog, a quick glance at part of my life story.


  1. I always enjoy reading your blogs. You are truly an inspiration. If I could muster just a small percentage of your will and spirit, I am sure I could also achieve my goals. Now, I just need to Google "how to muster...." ;-)

  2. Jules A. Lalonde30 March 2015 at 19:15

    You are an inspiration Gary! Thanks for sharing.

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