One scorekeeper, one night out partying, one decision on who you marry.
Ian McCall's life would be a lot different if he'd received a luckier draw in the game of life, but even when things are out of his control, he makes sure he's the one responsible.
Sure, the Team Oyama fighter would have earned the inaugural UFC flyweight title shot had the Australian scorekeeper known how to properly tally the judges' cards against Demetrious Johnson. But so what? He was given an opportunity to right that wrong in a rematch against Johnson and he showed up, as he puts it, "fat and weak," and he lost the decision.
His life was screwed up and full of horrific distractions in his two most recent UFC bouts? He puts the blame on himself for hanging out with the wrong crowd and having a child with the wrong person.
McCall is hoping to have put all that behind him as he heads into his fourth bout in the UFC, having surrounded himself with some positive influences. The former top-ranked 125-pounder holds an 0-2-1 record with the promotion and he has his sights set on that first UFC victory when he takes on Iliarde Santos tomorrow night (Aug. 3, 2013) on the UFC 163 preliminary card in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
McCall opened up during a guest appearance on Bloody Elbow Radio talking everything from the tremendous distractions in his life, taking responsibility for his problems and how he's hopefully turning it all around in this interview.
Check it out:
Matt Bishop: Take us back to 2011. You've just signed with the UFC for the flyweight tournament. Did you ever imagine you'd start your UFC career 0-2-1?
Ian McCall: No I did not. Things happen and lives change forever, maybe because someone doesn't know how to tally up a scorecard (laughs) and I don't know how to control certain things in my life. It is the way it is. I feel like I finally get a chance to work my way back up. This isn't some fight for me where I get a title shot right after or anything. I get to start over. I get to build my way up. I get to work for it. I don't mind earning what's rightfully mine. I'm excited just to get in there and fight. I've got a game opponent. He's got almost 40 wins or whatever or 30 wins for a reason. It's gonna be fun. I get to go into the belly of the beast, we get to go down into Brazil and fight one of their countrymen and I'm extremely excited.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Speaking of the belly of the beast, let's run some numbers by you. 35-9, that's the record of Brazilians against foreigners thus far for the modern UFC events in Brazil. What do you make of that?
Ian McCall: It's a fact that Brazilians are good at what they do and the like fighting in front of their home crowd. I'm sure it's a mixture of things. They perform well at home. They are at home. Americans perform better here. I'm sure some guys get favorable match-ups but that's what works. That's how you make the sport grow is you make heroes out of people who are from that area.
Also, Brazilian fans are the greatest fans on the planet. US fans don't hold a candle to people like that. They're insane and it's freakin awesome. I know I can make anyone fall in love with me. (laughs) I'll make them love me. If they change "Iliarde kill him" "Ali Boom baya" I don't care. I don't really speak Portuguese anyways so I don't know what they're saying. To me, it's like fighting on the east coast. It's only four hours different. It's not that big of a deal. I've just got to go out there and fight the way I fight and I'll come home with a victory.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How much extra motivation is it for you knowing you're going into this fight as a single parent? It seems like such a drastic change compared to what you were doing earlier in your UFC career.
Ian McCall: I'm in a lot better place than I was before. Having the distraction around that I had was not good. Me being a single parent, my mom, who my daughter calls mom, she raises my kid. She's like the mother of my child right now. I'm in camp. I'm not able to do that so she lives with my mom for a few months. My mom's got a ranch and God bless her heart because without her, I wouldn't be able to do what I do. My family is behind me 100 percent and it's nice to have. It's a blessing for sure.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Can you put into words what it's like to have that type of support system right now?
Ian McCall: It means everything to me. My family's great. They're good people. They know how I am and that I need focus and they help me out. And it's not just my parents. My in-laws, they help. My mom is drop her off to my dad to spend a few days with my dad and my mother-in-law is gonna pick her up and take her to Aspen and UFC is flying me to Aspen to pick her up. I've got a support system in place that's very nice. It makes my life possible. Without it I wouldn't be able to fight at the level I'm fighting at. It would be impossible.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I still remember Jordan Breen's big feature about you and your history and how things were really starting to turn for the better for you. What do you think went wrong in between that period and the stretch where you nearly hit rock bottom in your UFC run?
Ian McCall: Honestly, I married the wrong person. (laughs) I had a kid with the wrong person. And that's not to say she's at fault. We were poisonous together. That's just how it goes. You live and you learn. She's no longer in my life so that's a plus. I kind of fell back into my old ways, hanging out with stupid people and doing stupid things and not focusing. I got to WEC strictly on natural ability. I barely trained. When I got there, I felt like a rockstar. Sure, fame gets in the way. It's a poisonous thing for me. I'm finally learning after nearly two years in the UFC to deal with it. It's my own fault. Everything is obviously my own fault. You dig your own grave. Finally, I'm breathing fresh air. There's no stress. My life's pretty awesome right now. It's the way it always should have been. I guess I'm a walking example of what not to do and I guess how to get back out of the holes you dig.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This isn't the first time you've had to dig out of a hole. What do you think you really have to do and focus on to keep yourself in this positive mindset?
Ian McCall: I just have to keep doing what I'm doing. Stay positive and keep away the negative. You are the company you keep I guess. You are who you hang out with and I'm sorry, I like to party. I like women. When you're out, being a UFC fighter, it opens a lot of doors to have a lot of fun. People pay you to hang out, to host parties, and women want to sleep with you and just strictly for that fact. I think I've slept with women and they've had a much better time than me, where they leave and they're way more excited than I was. It's just the kind of thing where it's just hollow and worthless, sure it's a good time, but I get unfocused on the goal, the task I should be doing. That task is becoming world champion and if you're not focused on becoming world champion, I don't know, you need to find a new profession.
I lost track of that. I got spiteful. Sure, I got screwed the first time around whether I won, whether it was a draw, I would have won that fight. I woulda, shoulda, coulda, but it is what it is. And instead of me coming back stronger, I came back fat and weak. I'm slow and just down about myself and depressed and come on dude, get your shit together. (laughs) It's not the end of the world. I'm still fighting for the UFC.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now you brought up earlier that the stakes for this fight were much lower. Do you kind of like it that way, not having that pressure on yourself, perhaps hearkening back to when you were on the top of the world in Tachi Palace?
Ian McCall: I don't know. It's probably good for me. I'm not the center of attention. I love attention. For me, it's just a slap in the face, "Get back to work, stupid!" It's a good thing. Sure I'd much rather be fighting for a title or defending my title but it's not . It's a case where I'm getting pretty much a last chance to prove myself and I'm ready to do it.
Ian McCall: Smoke and mirrors, my friend. I know what I'm doing. (laughs) I was in a mood and I got talking about it and I probably did say too much but I don't give a shit. People need an example and if I'm an example of what not to do, that's fine. I've been helping somebody at my gym, a cry for help, strung out, a good fighter. Somebody I've known for a long time. I need to become an example. I need to help people more. It makes me feel good to help people in need or people who want to start doing this and are being led down the wrong path or whatever.
Yeah, sure, you know what? I had a shitty relationship. There was drugs involved. My wife was doing this and sleeping with my friends and I really just did that just to spite that person. Not just her but him because I'm kind of a dick sometimes. I probably did say too much but whatever. What you gonna do, beat me up?
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): On the topic of that fighter you're helping out, do you think you can redeem yourself through him?
Ian McCall: Of course. I'm not the preachy type. I was raised in Catholic schools and all that stuff. Whether God exists or not, it's how you look, whatever you do to affect yourself in a positive way. Whether it's religion or working out or whatever you do to just try and stay positive. I'm just trying to help people. I'm not out there doing motivational speaking or anything. I'm just helping people I know. It makes me feel good, so why not just help people out, you know?
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Okay, getting back on the subject of the fight. You've brought up that you've been training with guys that are more technical than your upcoming opponent Iliarde Santos and they can emulate him better than even he is. Who are some of the guys that really helped you get to the point where you're confident heading into this fight?
Ian McCall: My gym is like the Island of Misfit Toys. We're all a bunch of ex-lowlife from all parts of where we live. We're all family. Some of these guys don't even have any pro fights and they'd beat up some guys in the UFC or pro ickboxers. Romie Adanza, my buddy Bolo Alvarez, he watches tape on Iliarde and he doesn't know much jiu-jitsu but he's a vicious kickboxer and he can mimic that style really well. We hang out all the time and train all the time. You just have to come to the gym and see it. We build up everyone, even guys like Rob Emerson. (laughs) I put him on blast for sleeping with my wife but he was a product of Colin Oyama. Colin has helped build Tito Ortiz and Rob McCullough and Quinton Jackson and all these big names. He's an awesome coach.
It's a team of people that help me buckle down and focus in the gym. I've always had that. It's been outside the gym where I've been the problem and that's where I've kind of got myself back together. I'm kind of dating a girl who's good for me finally because I've always dated party chicks. Like I said from the beginning, surround yourself with good people, get in a good place and you can still have your fun but they'll hold you accountable for the stupid shit you do.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How do see the next year playing out for you?
Ian McCall: Go down to Rio, honestly, I know Iliarde is a black belt but I'd like to submit him. Just to do it. Can I do it? I have to prove it. After that, get back in the gym as soon as possible, hang out with my daughter as much as possible. She's growing faster than I can even imagine. I'd like to fight again at least once before the end of the year and then maybe people can start talking about me being in title contention. If I go out and starch a few guys and put on a show, then I'll deserve people saying, "Give him a number one contender fight" or something like that. That's how I'd like to see it. I'm building momentum, getting that momentum streak back in my favor.
You can follow Ian on Twitter @UncleCreepyMMA.