NFL. MLB. NHL. NBA. MMA. It’s amazing how three letters can define a sport. Of course, one of these things is not like the other.
Obviously the biggest difference on the list is that the first four sets of letters represent team sports and do not depend solely on one individual to be victorious. It is also unnecessary for any of those athletes to hold a part-time or full-time job in addition to their athletic careers. These are all seasonal sports, in the sense that the athletes only have to compete during certain times of the year and rest is pretty much guaranteed. That is not the life of an MMA fighter. There is no off season. There are no guaranteed rest periods. There are no million-dollar contracts that don’t take into consideration whether you get injured or not. Life consists of fighting for these athletes, and they truly are fighting for their life and the lives of their families and friends.
Ian McCall, better known to his fans as “Uncle Creepy,” is one of these fighters. However, after McCall’s decision loss to John Lineker in January 2015 at UFC 183, his future in fighting didn’t seem very clear. He was plagued by injury after injury and was forced to pull out of a 2015 match-up with Dustin Ortiz, a man he already held a win over. It was after this recurring injury trouble that McCall started getting asked about the dreaded R word: Retirement.
“Well, honestly, my arm just wasn’t working and I was like, ‘Fuck it, I’m over it,’” McCall told Combat Press. “I didn’t announce it or anything. I finally made peace that I wasn’t going to fight. Then I was training and teaching, and my arm felt a lot better. And my agent called and said, ‘Hey, do you want to fight?’ And I said no. He said, ‘Well, are you sure?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ He said, ‘Well, do you want to fight in South Dakota?’ And I said, ‘No, actually, definitely not.’ But then they kind of like pressured me a little bit… it’s not… I love fighting. But then my coach said, ‘Hey man, I want this fight… [Scoggins] beat Josh [Sampo], so we need to avenge this,’ [because] Sampo was training with us. And it just kind of happened. I always want to fight. I love fighting. It’s the thing I love more than anything in this world except my kid.
“I come from the old school like, if you beat my friend up, I’m gonna fuck you up. And I think, obviously, my coach knew bringing that up would [get a] ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s do it. Fuck it.’”
McCall was scheduled to step into the cage this Saturday at UFC 201. It would have been the end of a stint on the sidelines that lasted 19 months. Let that sink in. Think about not getting a steady paycheck for your job for 19 months. It would be devastating. Many fighters have said time and time again that they are never 100 percent when it comes to fight night. That’s with good reason, considering the rigorous scheduled and physical requirements that come with being a fighter. So, has McCall ever been 100 percent?
“Physically? Actually, yeah, physically I was on point for the Lineker fight,” McCall said. “I think a lot of people would make excuses at this point. Physically, I was fucking on point. That might have been the best physically that I’ve ever felt, but mentally I wasn’t. That’s where I fucked up.”
In this sport, the mental aspect sometimes is more important than the physical. A fighter has to have the will to move on, get back up and push through. Once the mind shuts down, the body will soon follow. McCall reflected on his mental state and attributed his lack of mental focus down to one thing: Self-sabotage.
“I had Chuck Liddell on my podcast just a couple days ago,” said McCall. “And my podcast is not MMA related, but I get with one of my best friends and what do we talk about? Fighting. It’s ingrained in our DNA. I’m just happy. Life is really good. I’m in a good place physically and mentally. Physically, this is probably the best thing that I could ever really ask for. My hand will never be 100 percent. My shoulder will never be 100 percent. My right arm in general. I can still beat the fuck out of people with it.”
That was then. This is now. McCall was set to meet Justin Scoggins this weekend, but Scoggins informed the UFC that he wouldn’t be able to make weight and the contest was scrapped from the UFC 201 lineup. It has to be a frustrating scenario for McCall, who is anxious to return to action after all of the work he has put in at the gym.
“We train really fucking hard,” said McCall. “I can focus on just being really, really healthy. Focus on getting my aerobic base up first before I get into the crazy anaerobic stuff. There’s a lot going on and… I know how to fight. I’m not 23, where I need to be fucking sparring all the time and doing all this crazy hard shit. I need to focus on sharpening my timing. The skill set is there, so technically I’m pretty high. I just have to get my timing and my cardio up.
“It’s a pretty basic thing. I’ve got my strength and conditioning two times a week. Every morning we drill and every couple of nights we fucking train harder. I wrestle two nights a week. I’m just being happy. I’ve got my mental coach, Vinny Shoreman. I’m now [at] 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu, so we have Casey Halstead and those guys. 10th Planet Costa Mesa and Las Vegas. So we got a great crew. It’s a nice, mellow training camp. We have everything in house.”
The key, no pun intended, seems to be in the “in house” part of McCall’s statement. It’s something that could benefit so many fighters who travel all over the state, country and sometimes the world in order to obtain the level of training and peers around them that they feel is vital to their success. McCall is one of the few who has not found the way, but he has set out to create it.
“I’ve gone out of my way to make that happen,” McCall said. “We have a fighter house for our gym. We’ve bought this fighter house for people to come and live. Alex Perez is king stink of the house. He’s the house manager and he’s kind of like the dad. I guess that would make me the grandpa, because I’m his dad. But we got a good system and we’ve got so many bodies.
“Specifically, I’ve gone and set it all up when we didn’t have our own house. I have Corey Beasley with Fight Camp Conditioning. He actually left his other gym and he’s doing kind of his own brand, and he comes to our gym and we go to his house, which is right by my gym. It’s literally in between my gym and the fighter house. We’ll drill in the morning and then go do strength and conditioning. Physical therapy is down the street. I own my own cryotherapy and hyperbaric chamber.
“I’ve set it up for my fighters, because I am a coach, too. That’s never going to change. I’m always going to be a coach. The fighter part will go away, eventually. But, yeah, I’ve gone out of my way just to have a setup so my young fighters can have everything very close by, if not in house. It’s cool. I love it. I’m happy to be mentoring these young fighters, because I love these kids and they look up to me and they love me, and we train our asses off to see them progress. I run a kid’s program, too. I run a beginner’s MMA program and I help coach the team. So it’s a lot of work and it’s still the kind of thing that isn’t for the money. I’m lucky enough to have investments and have other stuff I’m looking into. Financially, I’m going to be just fine.
“I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the team that we have. The things that we can offer young fighters is pretty fucking cool. And we live in paradise. Life doesn’t suck. I’m just happy, because I hate saying the word ‘blessed,’ but I’ve been blessed with this life and I’m really lucky not to have to worry about the financial part.
“My coach asked me, ‘Where you do want to be in 10 years?’ I said, ‘I want to be next to you, coaching. I’ve got your damn name tattooed on my fucking body.’ I’m in it for the long haul. And if I can have this gym and these other business facilities and I can have these fighters working for me, I can give them responsibility and some accountability and stuff while they are fighting, because they need fucking jobs. I can completely be a mentor to these young men or women.”
It’s amazing that a fighter like McCall has such a unique mindset and the ability to balance personal and work life. His business ventures branch out into a field that is quite familiar to him and something — better yet, someone — that is close to heart.
“Well, I thoroughly enjoy cryotherapy, first and foremost,” McCall said with a chuckle. “On top of me loving it for my own selfish reasons, I wanted to feel better and burn fat. My daughter, she’s sick. She has [rheumatoid arthritis]. So a big motivation for me was making sure that this machine was invented for people with rheumatoid arthritis. She was diagnosed at [age] two and a half. If she has a flare-up, I’ll put her in the hyperbaric as well.
“Again, I’m lucky enough to be able to have the means to go, OK, I like this shit. I like cryotherapy. I like hyperbaric chambers. I like physical therapy. Good masseuses and infrared saunas and float tanks and this machine and that machine and all these little gadgets that make you feel better physically. I don’t like to say recovery center, because everyone ties it into rehab, but it is. It’s a physical-recovery session. And recovery is long. Eventually, I’m sure we’re going to get some more doctors in and have like a chiropractor that runs it. You never know what we may end up offering them.
“This is the perfect example of why I got into this. ‘Cause the athletes are cool. That’s fine. That’s who’s going to get our name out. But some guy hit me up on Twitter. He said, ‘Hey, I heard you talk about how your daughter has RA and my daughter, she’s 13, was diagnosed with RA at the same age as your daughter, and I need help. How did you fix your kid?’ And I said, ‘Well, diet. Diet and cryotherapy.’ He said, ‘Well, can I come in?’ Him and his daughter have been in for the last couple months. And to have a 13-year-old girl that can barely walk, that’s all fucked up because of this disease that she’s had for most of her life, to see her and hear her go, ‘This is the first time in my life I’ve ever felt like I’m being heard.’ That’s it right there. Done.
“I mean, that’s pretty in perspective for a 13-year-old girl, but that is the reason why I do this stuff. So I can help. Just one. If I can help that one person — as many as possible. I really want to get into charities and stuff and do more and more and more, which I will. I just have to get around to it.”
Now, there’s just the matter of getting back in the cage. McCall will weigh in as an alternate for Saturday night’s event, but his wait to return to action appears destined to last a while longer.