This time last year the UFC was just preparing to accept its first fighters below the 155-pound division. With the WEC's featherweight and bantamweight fighters now settled into their new home, it's time for the 125-pounders to get a chance with the world's top promotion, as a four-man tournament will be held to crown the first ever UFC Flyweight Champion. One man hoping to claim that prestigious honor is Sherdog's top-ranked flyweight, and Taichi Palace Fights Flyweight Champion, Ian "Uncle Creepy" McCall.
McCall will be fighting for Zuffa for the second time, following a 1-2 stint as a WEC bantamweight which prompted the move to flyweight. With a 4-0 run in his new class, McCall is thrilled to be back inside an octagon-shaped cage.
"The day has finally come," McCall told Bloody Elbow Radio. "I'm very happy. It's a dream come true.
"When you have someone like Sean Shelby or Dana White ask for your phone number because they want to talk to you, it's pretty exciting."
The tournament begins at UFC on FX 2, March 3, 2012, and features a pair of bouts with 125-pound champions taking on former challengers to Dominic Cruz's Bantamweight strap. McCall will take on Demetrius Johnson, while Shooto champ Yasuhiro Urushitani battles Joseph Benavidez, and McCall has a healthy respect for his UFC-experienced foes.
"Demetrius Johnson and Benavidez are two guys I admire," McCall said. "I love watching them fight. When one of them is fighting it's always technical."
Don't confuse respect for fear, however, as McCall has no doubt he's the world's best Flyweight, and simply acknowledges his tournament opposition are some of the next best fighters around.
"I'd say Benavidez is #2, Demetrius Johnson is #3 and Urushitani is #4," McCall elaborated, before correcting himself in regards to a former opponent. "I actually think that Jussier da Silva is #4. He's made some big strides in his stand up. He's going to come in [to the UFC] pretty hot, and I really think he's going to make a splash in the UFC."
Johnson has made a name for himself in the UFC and WEC by utilizing speed to frustrate his opponents. While McCall admits that Johnson is quick, he does not expect a significant speed advantage to be present inside the cage once Johnson drops down to the lighter, faster class.
"You know, he's been fighting slower guys," McCall said, "so he's got to adjust for me. I know he's fast, I know he's good, but I've got a lot of fast, small guys. My main kickboxing partner is Romie Adonza and he's got four kickboxing belts at 118-pounds. If you want to see speed and a guy that hits hard, YouTube the guy.
"I think the biggest factor [with Johnson] is his timing. I think his timing is perfect - it's awesome. It's going to take work. I've got to watch some tape, watch his timing and just work my butt off."
With the chance to fight for an international audience, McCall is ready for the challenge and eager to show how his skills compare to the established UFC fighters.
"It's going to be a good honor for me to fight guys that are in the UFC," McCall said. "I joke around and talk a lot of shit, but I'm really excited."
McCall discusses how he nearly died, eloping and how his growing family has changed his life after the jump.
Although McCall has now reached the heights aspired to by most professional mixed martial artists, his career has not been without its share of down times. As McCall grew older and wiser, however, he says he learned how to make the right decisions that have allowed him to improve his life both inside and outside the cage.
"Things like jail and rehab will teach you how to do that," McCall explained. "It’s just the kind of thing where you just grow out of it. Finally one day I was like, 'okay, I’ve had enough fun.'"
McCall hit bottom when a night of recreational drug use nearly ended his life.
"I was sober for a long time and was on a good path, and then I was getting tattoed and was like ‘oh, I can do some things.’ I ended up taking oxycodone, xanax and GHB, and I think I smoked some weed. It was a handful of things and my body finally gave out on me, and now I know I can’t do that anymore."
McCall woke up in the hospital and was told by his doctor that he had been legally dead. Although a low point, the incident spurred McCall on to make the necessary changes in his life, and he hopes in the future to use his celebrity to show others they too can turn things around.
"It’s something that maybe one day when I become champion I can give talks about," McCall said. "It’s something a lot of people go through, and it’s a tough thing to do. It was nobody else’s fault but my own, but I learned from it and it made me a better person."
As McCall began his road to recovery, he also rekindled an on-again, off-again relationship with a former girlfriend. Today, the two are married, having eloped coming home from a fight.
"We had already talked about having a shotgun wedding," McCall said. "We were coming home with one of her friends and her brother in my car and it just felt right, so I put ‘wedding chapel’ in my little Google machine and it popped out a wedding chapel and we got married."
The couple now have their first child, a daughter, as well as two dogs in their care, and McCall believes the family responsibilities will have a positive effect on his career.
"She’s a really good baby," McCall said of his daughter. "I’ve been blessed, because she’s so quiet. My training schedule has changed a bit because no matter how good a baby is they’re still not going to sleep through the whole night, but it’s something I’ll take in stride. I’ve got thirteen-and-a-half weeks until the fight, and I’m already in okay shape. I’ll be in great shape by the end of next week. I can get in shape in about two weeks.
"[The responsibility] is good for me. My wife keeps me very grounded. My coaches, my family, everyone does a good job of keeping me in check. I like attention way too much, and sometimes that’s a problem."
For McCall and his growing family, the opportunity to make a name for himself in the UFC comes at a perfect time, and it’s a chance he doesn’t intend to let slip through his grasp.
"Being in the UFC is going to be nice," McCall said. "All the fame and fortune that comes with it – I’m going to be able to provide for my family by traveling the world and doing what I love."