When former Tachi Palace Fights flyweight champion Ian McCall inked a deal with the UFC in late 2011, he had high expectations. He entered the 2012 UFC Flyweight Tournament to determine the inaugural UFC 125-pound champion.
He faced Demetrious Johnson in the opening round and the two fought to a draw. Johnson was originally declared the winner, but after a scoring error correction, the fight was ruled a draw. Johnson defeated McCall by unanimous decision in a rematch.
In his next outing, McCall faced Joseph Benavidez and lost via unanimous decision. He’s gone 0-2-1 in his three UFC fights, and was not in a good place mentally. His personal life was coming unraveled as well as his career.
The 29-year-old fighter made changes in his life, eliminated some relationships, distanced himself from others, and is ready to move forward inside and outside of the cage.
“I’m in a much better place. You know, I’ve kind of blown my UFC career so far, but now it’s time to earn what’s rightfully mine,” McCall told MMAWeekly.com content partner Knockout Radio.
“I’ve always been physically ready. Every fight, I’ve always been in shape. I’ve always been there. Just for me it’s a mental thing because I can be a head case and that really has been what’s gotten me down in the past, but I took personal steps in my personal life, new relationships, new whatever it may be to just change for the better. I really am just happier and in a much better place than I can really ever remember, which is nice,” he added.
McCall has gone from being a headliner two fights ago to being the first preliminary fight on FX in his upcoming UFC 163 bout against Iliarde Santos. That would be discouraging to some, but McCall sees it as an opportunity to earn his way back to main card status.
“I haven’t earned (expletive). It’s probably where I deserve to be,” he said. “Some people can look at it as a slap in the face not being on the main card, but who cares who I’ve fought and where I ‘ve been on previous cards? There are some big names that deserve to be there and I’m just ready to earn it. That’s my outlook on everything. I like earning things. I like being the good dog that gets petted. I want to earn this title shot and my first step to do that is by knocking this guy out.”
Work ethic has never been an issue for McCall. He works hard in the gym, but has lacked focus.
“Training has always been the same. I always put in the work; I bust my butt. I’m just more mentally clear. Not to say that it’s completely someone else’s fault, of course, I put myself in every situation I am in. I was in a bad relationship and any man knows that can really drag you down,” he said.
“I was dropping the ball. I wasn’t focused. I had flashes of brilliance, but that’s all done now and I’m excited to move forward and prove myself. I was brought in as No. 1. I was supposed to be something special and I haven’t really shown that yet,” he added.
McCall expects to put on a show on Aug. 3 when he faces Santos in Brazil.
“He is going to go in there and try to knock my head off, that’s for sure. I’m in his country. I am the person standing across from him. He’s fought, what 30 almost 40 fights, probably. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu, so obviously he’s dangerous just like any opponent. You have to respect everybody,” said McCall.
“I have to go out there and just do work. I’ve got to stop having so much fun getting punched in the face and I’ve got to punch people back.”