John HowardOf all the storylines that have come out in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, none have been more controversial than the relatively normalized anonymity of the two alleged perpetrators prior to their infamy. It’s a fact the conspiracy theorists who claim the Tsarnaev brothers are innocent have latched on to, and it’s the same premise behind that now-infamous Rolling Stone cover.

It’s also the source of some really bizarre memories for one UFC fighter.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed during the manhunt days after the bombing, was known to be at the Wai Kru gym in Allston, Mass., about 72 hours before the incident. In fact, UFC fighter John Howard was a regular at the gym, and sparred with the elder Tsarnaev multiple times.

Howard recalls those sessions in detail.

“The only thing I wish is that I could have just kept hitting him and hitting him and hitting him,” Howard told the New York Post. “It was a crazy experience. I couldn’t believe that happened. It hit so close to home.”

Tsarnaev had reportedly come to the gym because he had heard of Howard, and was looking for a greater challenge in his training. Howard, who is trained in kickboxing, says that Tsarnaev was actually a better pure boxer than he was.

However, Howard ultimately got the better of their sparring matches, one time breaking Tsarnaev’s nose with a left hook. Howard says that him and Tsarnaev were “cool,” but not necessarily close.

“He was in his own world,” said Howard.

Howard will be back in action Saturday night for UFC Fight Night, airing on the newly launched FOX Sports 1 network.

Photo via Twitter/@UFCGrenal