by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
“I was addicted to drugs and alcohol and it led in the end to heroin. I just happened to be one of the fortunate ones that were able to make it out.
“The first day I shot up, I overdosed and died. I heard that they did CPR, that they defibulated me, and then I went to the hospital. I think I was there for a couple of days, and then my parents took me to a rehab facility.
“From when I was there to where I’m now… I’m a lot different guy.”
That’s not the typical story that you expect out of a mixed martial artist, fighting for a six-figure contract with the biggest promotion in the world, but that is Court McGee’s story as he told it to his fellow competitors on Season 11 of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
McGee now finds himself mere hours away from the biggest – in ring – fight of his life. He faces Kris McCray in the finals of Season 11 of “The Ultimate Fighter” on Saturday night. But his life outside of the Octagon keeps it all in perspective, making his official UFC debut seem not so ominous.
“This is the big show. This is where I’ve worked to get to. I put 4,000 hours to get where I’m at today,” McGee told reporters earlier this week. “I trained like I was getting ready to fight Chuck Liddell for my first fight and I did that every fight. This fight’s not any more important than the first fight because the first fight’s where it got me today.”
Having been to the brink of self-destruction – I guess you could say he was actually rescued from diving over the brink – McGee has a perspective on the fight game that even haggard veterans of the sport don’t necessarily have.
“I was given an opportunity, and McCray was given an opportunity. We both took advantage of it, and didn’t sit and dwell on it,” he said.
“I tried to not have any expectations coming onto the show at all. But I questioned myself seriously before I made it on there when they called and said you made it. I was putting myself in a situation where there would be alcohol.
“But I got to remember where I came from, and what it was like when I was drinking and using. I was pretty miserable. So I just questioned myself before I came, was I coming here for the right reasons? And the answer was, yes, I came here for the opportunity to better take care of my family.”
McGee wasn’t the second coming of Junie Browning (Junie’s brother, Robert, took care of that), happy to be his usual self, avoiding confrontation outside of the Octagon, working hard in the gym and focusing on his objective.
“I was a professional MMA fighter before I came on the show, and this is a huge opportunity to better my career,” McGee stated. “I came here to fight and win, not to drink and party.”
Reality shows aren’t typically as grounded in reality as McGee seems to be, and “The Ultimate Fighter” is no different. The temptation to go crazy spending six weeks locked up in a house in Las Vegas with equal amounts booze and testosterone was perhaps the biggest pressure that McGee faced.
But if it was ever a test for him, he passed with flying colors.
“It’s definitely a little added pressure. There’s sometimes I think about a drink sounds good,” he admitted. “But I know where that takes me if I take a drink. So I went in, in good spirits, and knew that I wasn’t going there and going to be trying to battle that the whole time. I haven’t drank (in) a little over four years.
“All I can do is work at it one day at a time. So after I get done practicing today and do my interviews and stuff, I’ll be satisfied with today. I’m making sure I show up for today. I don’t like to sit and worry about things that I can’t control.”
A husband and a father, McGee’s Zen-like approach keeps him off the bottle and on the heavy bag, knowing that there is an endgame that makes fighting the battle worth all the blood, sweat, and tears.
“The payout is that I can better take care of my family. And I actually can spend more time with my son and my wife and my new baby on the way.”