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UFC veteran speaks about addiction, stealing copper, arrests and recovery

Ike Vallie-Flagg — a retired UFC and Strikeforce Lightweight — had an in-depth interview with Rex Chapman.

If you’re on social media at all, there’s a really good chance one of Rex Chapman’s posts have crossed your timeline. The former NBA star used to generally post amusing clips of physical humor accompanied by the tagline, “block or charge?” (a basketball reference, for those who don’t follow stick and ball sports) that would often go viral as people would try and blame the accident on whichever idiot did the dumbest thing. You’ve probably seen a clip of a paddleboarder getting bodied by a jumping dolphin, well that’s one of the ones we’re talking about.

While there’s still plenty of light-hearted content flowing out from the former basketball star, the more serious side of his social media influencing included opening up about his addiction to painkillers, in his specific case, Oxycodone. He recently started a podcast called, “Charges with Rex Chapman,” and in this specific episode, the one-on-one interview/discussion was with former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Strikeforce Lightweight Isaac (Ike) Vallie-Flagg.

Vallie-Flagg is the first mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter to appear on the show, which almost always focuses on the darker side of athletes, be it mental health, addictions or other major issues that plague all people, including the professional athletes who aren’t immune to the foibles of humankind.

Anyone whose dealt with addictions or abuse — or even simply losing your career earnings (fellow NBA star Antoine Walker discussing how he lost all of the millions of dollars he earned during his career) — may want to give these roughly hour-long discussions a listen, just to hear some relatable content.

Nevertheless, Vallie-Flagg came into UFC when Zuffa bought Strikeforce back in the day and acquired its talent. Coming off of a notable win against J.Z. Cavalcante, he had some hype coming into his Octagon debut against veteran Yves Edwards at UFC 156, and the new guy managed to earn a close win against the bigger name.

That was to be the last major success Ike would have in the sport.

As he discussed in his wide-ranging conversation with Chapman, he hurt his back after that fight and that was the trigger that started his pain-pill addiction, which would lead to even harder drugs: heroin and meth.

From the beginning, “IVF” goes into some details about a childhood that many would call non-standard. Growing up without a father, he was never into any sports growing up and found MMA in his early 20s as an outlet for getting into fights, but now legally and possibly even getting paid. As a teenager, casual drinks at family functions led him to use alcohol more regularly in high school as a way to unwind after parties that he’d attend, which in turn was a stepping stone for him to graduate to harder stuff.

Vallie-Flagg discussed how he was prescribed opiates as painkillers when he hurt his back, and they worked so well for him that he rapidly became addicted to them. They were somewhat expensive and as his body acclimated to the drug, he started having to do more, eventually snorting them.

That was the tipping point, as he graduated to heroin soon after that.

But, drugs are an expensive habit, and he was losing in UFC and got cut. Eventually, he resorted to stealing. He detailed that he was caught with copper that he ripped out from a construction site, and that’s really when he realized that he was a junkie. Normally, you have some idea in your head of what a junkie looks like, and it isn’t a professional athlete, it’s some guy ripping copper to sell.

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He ended up getting a pre-prosecution deferral thanks to a good lawyer, and did treatment plus community service for that, but the treatment didn’t really last long. This was also when meth entered his life. Using it as a way to balance the differing highs from heroin and meth to remain functional as a human being, he kept lying to his family, friends and those around him as he fed his worsening addiction.

He finally did get into a real treatment program (and stuck with it) and is closing in on four years of sobriety in a few months. He’s working as a roofer now in his home area of Albuquerque, N.M., along with entering the crazy world of bareknuckle boxing (he is 3-1 in that sport with a win over fellow UFC alum Melvin Guillard).

He credits being rabidly diligent and focused on remaining clean as the means to his current success in beating addiction.


To listen to the full interview head over to Google, Apple or wherever you normally listen to your new-fangled version of talk radio.