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Ian McCall: ‘I’m one injury away from never fighting again’

Ian McCall keeps getting asked if his fight at UFC Fight Night 99 this weekend will be his last. He doesn’t know the answer to that question, because it all comes down to whether or not he gets injured again.

MMA: UFC 183-McCall vs Lineker Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In the past three years, Ian McCall has been booked to fight eight times. But only two of those pairings actually went down as planned, the majority of them being scrapped because of an “Uncle Creepy” injury or illness.

He’s scheduled to fight Neil Seery at UFC Fight Night 99 in Belfast, Northern Ireland this weekend. With less than seven days to go, it’s looking good — that said, McCall was scheduled to fight twice this past summer and both matchups were cancelled during fight week.

Over the past few years, the various injuries McCall has suffered have taken a toll on his body. He has seriously contemplated retirement. And that wasn’t too long ago. He hopes his fight this weekend isn’t his last, but whether or not it will be all comes down to if he gets hurt again. McCall has almost hit his the last straw. He’s so close. But he hasn’t hit it quite yet.

“I would like it not to be. I’d like to have an actual title run in me,” McCall told BloodyElbow.com’s The MMA Circus. “But with me, everything’s injury-based. If I keep healthy and I’m not injured, then awesome. If I get injured again, I’m done. There’s no question about it. I can’t keep getting injured and taking time off and doing all this rehab stuff. I’m one injury away from never fighting again.”

If McCall travels to Northern Ireland only to find out a few days after his arrival that yet another fight of his has been cancelled the week of the fight, he’d also likely call it quits.

“For me to travel halfway across the world and not fight, I’d probably just quit at that point,” he said. “I’d just be like, ‘OK, I’m done, give me my money, so I can go find a new job.’”

McCall said that there was a point not long ago his retirement was all but official. He didn’t have plans to ever fight again at the time. He signed to fight Justin Scoggins at UFC 201 in July — one of the bouts that fell apart — with the expectations that he would get injured before fight day. By then, getting injured seemed inevitable.

But he made it. His opponent didn’t, however.

“I was never supposed to really come back and do this again,” he said. “I hadn’t really announced it or anything, but I was pretty much retired. I had never planned on fighting again.

“The injuries kept me from returning. When I signed to fight Justin, I didn’t think my body could make it through an entire fight camp. I signed, anyways, because I just laugh at everything — everything’s kind of silly and funny to me. But I didn’t think it was going to work. I didn’t think my body would hold up for it. But it did, so that’s a plus.”

The road to UFC 201 wasn’t necessarily pretty, though. McCall had to overcome quite a bit to get through training camp all the way to fight week.

“When we started to put in the hard work, my right arm, the one I’ve had all the damage to, it kept giving out on me, and I thought I tore it again,” he said. “My doctor sat me down, and he just said, ‘OK, well, you’re not a pussy, right?’ And my doctor’s a friend of mine. And I’m like, ‘Apparently, I’m not.’ And he’s like, ‘Alright, well, this is going to suck, it’s going to hurt, but nothing’s torn. Structurally, everything’s good in your arm. So if you want to fight again, you have to stop being a little b-tch and just work through it. So I did, and it feels better now. I mean, it still gives out every once in a while, but whatever. It works better than it used to.”

A similar situation to the one that occurred in July happened less than two months later. McCall was slated to fight Ray Borg at UFC 203. Yet again, the fight was cancelled. And for the second time in a row, it wasn’t McCall who had to pull out. Borg, only a few days from the event, was forced out of the bout with an illness.

Both situations were bad, McCall said, and both had their pros and cons. The 32-year-old was angrier when Scoggins pulled out, because his opponent was to blame — although some weight cuts are tougher than others, fighters can control what division they compete in. However, he received all his money for that scheduled bout: show money, win money, and sponsorship money. McCall was more understanding of Borg when “The Tazmexican Devil” pulled out, because illnesses are out of a person’s control. But for that scheduled fight, McCall only received his show money — his fight was the only flyweight fight on the card, so he didn’t have to make weight.

“I was actually pissed off about the Scoggins fight,” he said. “It was his fault. He screwed up, and he also acted like an idiot after, so it kind of pissed me off. With Ray, Ray was legitimately sick; he spent the night in the hospital. So I can’t get mad at him in any way, shape or form.”

It’s fair to say that McCall is prone to injuries. And he’s come to accept that. He’s changed his style of training completely over the past couple years. He doesn’t think he’s at a disadvantage because of it. In fact, he think his new way of training gives him an advantage over his opponents, because he’s not over-training.

“My training has been tapered back quite a bit,” he said. “My coaches, obviously, realized that I’m injury-prone and that I do work too hard. Most of my career, I’ve worked entirely too hard, and that’s why I’ve had injuries. So they’ve really pulled back.

“I’m only allowed to do two training sessions a day. I have to rest as much as possible. If there are days where I don’t feel like training, I don’t train. I know how to fight — that’s the easy part. I just need to be in the best shape possible, and I need to stay flexible, and I need to keep my speed up, and build things like the aerobic base, my anaerobic base. There’s a whole process to it that we’ve formulated that seems to be working out for me.

“I don’t spar that much. [My training sessions are] more purpose-driven, instead of having variables, like another person wrenching on my arm or my leg or my neck or whatever it is. So we have a very purpose-built training camp specifically for me.”