Ian McCall is certain that he's the best flyweight fighter in the world. Now he has the chance to prove it.
After a rough 1-2 run in the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) that ended with him losing to current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz, the ostentatious Team Oyama fighter made the life-changing decision to drop down to 125 pounds.
It wasn't easy, and he dealt with a multitude of personal issues along the way, but when he stepped in against consensus number one flyweight Jussier da Silva in February earlier this year, he shocked the world. Not expected to even come close, McCall picked his Nova Uniao opponent apart in the final two rounds to score a huge upset victory.
He followed that victory up by handling fellow to flyweights Dustin Ortiz and Darrel Montague to be crowned the Tachi Palace Fights flyweight champion. When the UFC announced it would be adding the flyweight division, McCall was one of four contenders chosen to compete in the inaugural 125-pound tournament to crown the first UFC flyweight champion.
"Uncle Creepy" will take on former UFC bantamweight title challenger Demetrious Johnson in the semifinals of the flyweight tournament at UFC on FX 2 in Sydney, Australia, and he was recently a guest on Bloody Elbow Radio, talking about his status in the division, making major lifestyle changes, his upcoming fight with Demetrious Johnson and the night he almost died.
Check it out, Maniacs:
Matt Bishop: You're fighting Demetrious Johnson in Australia, UFC is bringing flyweights in, how excited are you to be signed by the UFC?
Ian McCall: The day has finally come. I'm very happy and it's a dream come true.
Matt Bishop: You say it's a dream come true, how long have you been waiting for this moment?
Ian McCall: Well they've been talking about it for what, a year, year and a half now? So probably that long, maybe two years. I've really, I know it was before I actually fought at 125, I thought about it. Let's say I beat Jussier a year ago or whatever, since then I've really been thinking about it. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You actually tried out for The Ultimate Fighter season 14 didn't you?
Ian McCall: Yeah, I went out to New Jersey and tried out, they flew me to Vegas and it just wasn't, I wanted to stay at 125 and I was number one in the world so I wanted to keep that going and then they, it was kind of a dual thing where they couldn't take me because of whatever reason and I was over it anyways.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): And did they give you any inclination like, "Keep doing what you're doing and we're gonna be having the flyweights soon," or did that kind of just get sprung on you right before your last scheduled Tachi Palace fight?
Ian McCall: I kind of knew, I mean they were always talking about it but they kept it very hush, hush. They didn't tell us too much but then once it was official, they called me and they just tell you, "Okay, so this is what's going on, we're gonna announce it tomorrow or whatever," it's pretty difficult. It's the kind of thing where if you have someone like Sean Shelby or Dana White asking for your phone number because they want to talk to you, it's pretty exciting.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now I know you're ranked number one at flyweight right now and you consider yourself number one, but who do you think is number two?
Ian McCall: Number two? I obviously put myself at number one, but I'd say Benavidez is two, Demetrious Johnson is three and Urushitani is four, actually, I think Jussier da Silva is four to be honest with you. He's making some big strides in his stand-up and things like that. He's really coming in pretty hot and that guy's good, man. I really think he's gonna make a splash in the UFC.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You recently got married. Did you end up having that big wedding ceremony with your wife because I heard you had that impromptu quick hitch in San Fernando after the Tachi Palace win?
Ian McCall: You know, we had already talked about kind of having a shotgun wedding before and we were just happy and obviously we were happy because of what had been going on and we were just driving home and she said, "Hey," because we were driving home and one of her friends was in my car and her brother was in my car and it just felt right like, "Let's get married! I typed "wedding chapel," into my little google machine and we went and got married. Pretty simple.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've got a new baby in your life. I was wondering, how is that? Have you had to make any adjustments to your training schedule and everything else now with the new baby in your life?
Ian McCall: Yeah, I'm actually changing her here as we speak. She's a really good baby. I'm blessed because she's so quiet. She got her shots yesterday so she's a little cranky but we're just, my training schedule has changed a bit. It's a little harder because, no matter how good a baby is, they're still gonna wanna not sleep through the whole night and all that stuff. It's something I'll take in stride. I've got like 13 1/2 weeks until the fight so I'm already in okay shape and I'll be in great shape by the end of next week. I get into good shape in literally like two weeks.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Speaking of your training, I've read that you've kind of got this crazy idea with training where you're just training 2-3 times a day every day and people are worried about you overtraining. Do you just feel like you have the body-type that you can just keep going and going and you won't wear down?
Ian McCall: No, I wear down. That's the thing. Whether it's my wife, my parents, my brother, my coaches, my training partners, sometimes I do train too hard but that's kind of what it takes to be where I'm at. I can't just half-ass it. I push the pace a little bit and right now I'm not training as hard as I'd like to but that's what comes with having a family and stuff like that. Right now, I'm cramming in all the technique that I can but I'll really pick up the pace training-wise probably the first of the year is when my training will get really crazy.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): And looking back at this 2011, you were really active and you were competing against some of the best in the world. You fought da Silva, Ortiz, Montague so have you really had the time to train to improve or have you more been keeping the machine in top shape?
Ian McCall: Luckily, I can pick up on technique while I'm doing all that hard work. I know it's hard for some people, it's hard for anybody to really pick up on that much technique when they're pushing that hard. I'll take maybe a week off from training and I'm always teaching so it's the kind of thing where I'm always learning. Hopefully I'll never stop learning because that's when I'll lose. You can never stop learning and growing.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Where do you rank your striking compared to some of the other flyweights out there?
Ian McCall: I know I haven't been able to test myself against the guys in the UFC, but like you said before, I fought the toughest guys recently. I fought Darrel Montague, I fought Jussier da Silva and Dustin Ortiz and I think I've shown that I'm a whole head taller than these guys in terms of competition. It's gonna be an honor and it's gonna be a good test for myself to be able to fight guys in the UFC like Benavidez and like Demetrious Johnson. I joke around a lot and talk a lot of shit but at the same time, I'm just super-excited. I'm excited that I finally get to show that I am the best and I can do this.
Matt Bishop: Are you ready to start getting the respect you deserve?
Ian McCall: Yes, I can't wait. In the UFC, it'll be a different level of respect as well as all the fame and fortune and I'll be able to provide for my family, travel the world and do what I love so it's an exciting thing.
Matt Bishop: How disappointed were you when you left the WEC as a bantamweight and when did you decide to drop to flyweight?
Ian McCall: Well I never actually got walking papers, maybe my coach never gave them to me (laughs) but I never saw any walking papers. I wasn't in a good place and I didn't really care at that point. I was like, "Whatever," and I was being self-destructive.
Matt Bishop: The self-destructiveness, how have you been able to overcome that?
Ian McCall: It seems like jail and rehab will teach you how to do it. It's just the kind of thing where you grow out of it. I just finally one day was like, "Okay, I've had enough. I've had enough fun. I've partied enough in my life. This is kind of over with," and from there, that was before me and my wife got together and she got pregnant and it the kind of thing where I did it on my own and we and my wife reconnected because we'd dated on and off for five years and one day we started hanging out again and surprise, now I've got two dogs and a baby and a wife (laughs).
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Was there like a key turning point for you where you just realized enough was enough and you decided to dedicate yourself to fighting or something else?
Ian McCall: Yeah, the day that I woke in the hospital and the doctor was like, "Well, you were dead for just an amount of time. I think you should stop what you're doing." I was like, "Oh, great, okay cool, I'll take your advice on that."
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Would you mind telling us a little bit about the background on that story?
Ian McCall: Yeah, I was sober for a long time and I was on a good path and then I was getting tattooed and I was like, "Oh yeah, I have an excuse to do some things," and I ended up taking a bunch of, what did I take? I took Oxycontin and Xanax and GHB, I think I smoked some weed and it was just a handful of things and my body finally gave out on me and now I know that I can't do that anymore. It's something that, maybe one day after I become champion and all that, I can give talks and whatever, but it's something that I know a lot of people go through. Maybe not athletes so much, but people in general. It's a tough thing to do. It's no one else's fault but my own, but I learned from it and it made me a better person.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you feel like all this added responsibility with the new family has grounded you?
Ian McCall: Yeah, definitely. It's good for me. I need to be grounded because if I get a little slack, I'll run with it and run with it. My wife, my coaches, my family, everybody does a good job of keeping me in check. I like attention way too much and that's a problem.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Are you a fan of any other smaller weight class fighters like yourself?
Ian McCall: Oh yeah, Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez are two guys that I admire a lot. I love watching them fight. It's always exciting, always technical and the 135-pounders and 145-pounders are the fights that I watch or read about unless it's the really big names in the other weight classes. Those are the guys that I can very well be fighting soon.
Matt Bishop: Your fight with Demetrious Johnson is going to be in Australia. Have you ever been there before and what do you have to do to get prepared with having to fly that far, having to cut weight and things like that? Are you going to have to get your preparations for that already because I assume that's gonna be a big challenge?
Ian McCall: Yeah, it's gonna be draining but Demetrious is going to have to go through it too so I'm not super worried about it. I've traveled a lot and I have a lot of friends in Australia even though I've never been over there. All my friends are on the gold coast over in Surfer's Paradise. I've got a lot of Australian fans and I don't think it will affect me really. I think that as healthy as I am and as good as my diet is, the way I do cut weight, I cut a lot of weight but I do it in a healthy way, I think I'll be fine. I'll actually get 16 hours of sleep, that's the way I look at it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): My last question for you about Demetrious, he's known as being one of the quickest fighters in the UFC. Do you feel that you'll be able to match his speed or be able to deal with it?
Ian McCall: That's one thing that people don't look at like I'm slow. I think he's just been fighting slower people and he has to adjust to me. Granted, obviously I know he's fast and I know he's good but I have a lot of fast, small guys. I mean, my main kickboxing partner is Romie Adanza, he's got four world championship belts and he fights at 118 pounds. If you want to see speed and someone who hits hard? Youtube the guy, he's a freak. Wrestling, I've got a lot of small guys that are around Demetrious' size, my size so speed isn't something I'm worried about. I think the biggest factor is his timing because his timing is pretty perfect. His timing is awesome so I've got to adjust to that which just takes work. To figure out his timing, to watch his tape and just work my butt off and have training partners mimic that because that's gonna be the easiest way to get used to it.
Matt Bishop: We'll wrap with this. This is a big four-man flyweight tournament to determine the first UFC champion. What are you going to have to do to come out on top and become the first champion?
Ian McCall: I'm gonna have to put on a good fight. I'm gonna have to come in at my best, come in in shape and really, whatever I have to do for my other fights. I don't look at this as anything different. I'm still working just as hard as I can to do it and it's not like I was just slacking before when I beat those guys. I think mental focus is going to be key. People talk about the Octagon jitters, but I deal well with excitement so I don't think that'll be a big factor but then again, you never know. I think mental preparation will be a big part of it.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will McCall carry over his tremendous 2011 run into 2012? Does he have what it takes to become the inaugural UFC flyweight champion?
Special thanks to bestrafer7 and Ben Thapa from the InStrength board for help with some questions.