The Rise & Fall of Ian McCall
When all is said and done and we look back upon the career of the man known as "Uncle Creepy", it's quite likely that the wrong picture will be painted. That picture being the one-sided illustration of how he could perhaps never consistently make it to fight night for one reason or another or how he was just that guy with the cool mustache. Either would be inaccurate depictions of the charismatic Flyweight pioneer.
In the beginning, Ian McCall kicked off his career with a flawless 5-0 record before getting the call up to the then premier organization for lighter weight fighters, World Extreme Cagefighting. McCall won his debut via round 3 TKO then followed it up with a tough first round loss to veteran WEC Bantamweight, Charlie Valencia. That being the first of his career, led to McCall picking up a win in Total Combat before returning to the WEC for what would be one of the biggest fights of his career. Especially in hindsight.
On January 25, 2009, at WEC 38 in San Diego, California, McCall went toe to toe with one of the very best to ever do it, Dominick Cruz. On the rise himself at the time, it was clear that Cruz might be something special. Especially after just beating Valencia, the man to give McCall his first career loss. But Uncle Creepy was not deterred. In what ended up being quite an outclassing with McCall on the wrong end, he never went away and kept coming at Cruz with all he had despite his minimal success. An achievement that McCall can still claim to this day is that he's the only man to out wrestle Cruz with the two takedowns to none he scored in their bout. An accomplishment no other man has been able to beat in the eleven fights Cruz has had since.
Despite the valiant effort in the cage, Ian had taken a beating mentally more than anything, as he fell victim to an overdosing of Oxycodone, GHB, Xanax and other tranquilizers. Awakening in the hospital two days later, Ian had found out that during this time his breathing and heartbeat had ceased. Fortunately, he recovered in just a few weeks.
It is often said that after a fighter takes on their first opponent of an elite status that they may receive what's known as "the rub". Safe to say that McCall was affected by this, as he began to truly show his talent to its fullest potential after facing Cruz. Overcoming death doesn't exactly hurt either.
McCall's fight with Cruz would be his last with the WEC and lead him to his final bout in the Bantamweight division...though that wasn't McCall's plan. The fight would come against Jeff Willingham at an MEZ Sports event, where he defeated Willingham by first round submission in just over two minutes. After earning the quick victory, the Costa Mesa native wasn't sure where his career would go from here. That is until he got a call up from the home of the world's best Flyweights, Tachi Palace Fights who inquired if he would want to fill in as the opponent for the then #1 ranked Flyweight in the world, Jussier "Formiga" Da Silva.
McCall being the true fighter he is, would accept and be the clear underdog against the undefeated Formiga. Essentially being fed to Formiga on short notice and expected to lose, Uncle Creepy came out with the big upset victory as he defeated Formiga by unanimous decision with 29-28 scores across the board. Obviously being the largest win of his career and now making him the new #1 king of the Flyweight division, McCall was the uncrowned champ but critics believed he still needed to prove himself and that the win wasn't just a fluke.
His following bout would come against undefeated top 10er at the time and current #11 ranked UFC Flyweight, Dustin Ortiz. McCall took all three rounds on route to a unanimous decision win and his second at 125 lbs. It was now time for some gold to be put on the line. McCall would be set to face champion, Darrell Montague who had his title opportunity presented to him due to McCall's upset over Formiga. Taking Formiga out of the picture and declaring himself the very best, McCall was ready to get the hardware to solidify it and Montague was ready to prove that he was the rightful champion.
McCall and Montague went back and forth until the third round of their championship fight in which McCall began to firmly take over when he got a takedown against the cage, beginning to reign down with ground and pound strikes. McCall eventually found his way to Montague's back and wound up sinking in the rear naked choke for the submission victory and earning that title belt around his waist that he'd long been searching for.
By this point, Ian was on all hardcore fan's radars and had become easily the most popular fighter at 125 for his exciting fighting style and entertaining personality. Helping get a buzz around the division, people started to notice and by people, I also mean the important people... In late 2011, the UFC decided it was time for the Flyweights to make their debut and McCall was on the short list of first fighters to get the call to kick things off.
The stage had been set. UFC on FX 2 in Sydney, Australia would play host to the UFC's inaugural four man Flyweight title tournament. These four men consisted of top 3 Flyweight, Yasuhiro Urushitani, top Bantamweight contender, Joseph Benavidez, most recent Bantamweight title challenger, Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson and of course, Ian McCall. McCall and Johnson would square off in the very first 125 lb fight in UFC history and to this day, the very first UFC Flyweight fight of all time may still be the considered the best the division has seen.
This was the moment McCall had been waiting for. The grandest stage in all of MMA and getting his chance to showcase his world class skills. And that he did. McCall and Johnson went punch for kick in one of the most exciting and competitive fights you'll see at Flyweight. They truly showed the potential of how awesome this division would be and it was just the very first bout. Unfortunately, the fight leaves its lasting impression primarily for its controversy that quickly followed...
After a very close first round, Johnson edged McCall in the second round, out striking him 48-30 and defending 3 of McCall's takedown attempts. By the time the third had rolled around, McCall was all smiles and ready to lay everything on the line in what had already been a great battle. Trading blows on the feet and finding a takedown in favor of McCall, the fight stayed competitive and entertaining. Then the man with the best mustache in the UFC hit his second and final takedown of the round around the one minute mark where he began to reign his patented ground and pound all the way until the final bell.
McCall got up off of the battered Johnson and ran around the cage flipping in the air to land and do some push ups. He even threw in a mustache twirl for good measure. The Team Oyama staple believed he had done more than enough to seal his victory. With a potential 10-8 score in that third round, it was a reasonable assumption. But as it came time for Bruce Buffer to read the decision, this was not the case. Johnson was announced the winner to the crowd's discontent. But this was also not the case... Later on, after the event had ended, UFC officials told us that the judge's scorecards were misread and that the fight was actually scored a majority draw. Since this bout was part of the Flyweight tournament, in the case of a draw there was to be a sudden death fourth round...this obviously never happened.
As time has gone on since the 2012 bout, McCall has said that the moment his life spiraled out of control was when he "lost" to Johnson. When that decision was read, the disappointment on his face was evident as he pulled his hand away from the referee and walked directly out of the cage. If he was skilled enough was never the question with Ian McCall. It was whether or not he could overcome his mental blocks and barriers.
Ian would go on to rematch Johnson in the UFC on FX 3 main event four months later. A fight that he would lose decisively this time around. Johnson would go on to solidify himself as the greatest Flyweight of all time and just one of the very greatest overall. On the other side of the spectrum, McCall would go 2-2 since then with a mind boggling ten fight cancellations along the way. Whether it being health issues, injuries or weight issues with his opponents, it just seemed like fighting might not be what fate was wanting McCall to continue doing.
Having not fought in over two years and still signed under an old contract that isn't paying as much as he would now desire, McCall may never step foot inside a cage again. That along with his much more concerning brain trauma issues...it wouldn't be surprising if he wouldn't want to risk receiving further damage for little profit in the world of prizefighting.
To all those that have been following Ian McCall's career, his legacy will be clear. He was the man to help propel a young division to greater heights(no pun intended). Whether it was the plan all along or not, he put the Flyweight division on the map. Ian was one of the best in the world at one point and one of the greatest fighter's of all times toughest rivals and their fights won't be forgotten despite what may overshadow them. We all know that deep down Ian still believes he would give DJ a run for his money. But he has nothing left to prove to anyone. Ian McCall is and was a true modern day pioneer.
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