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UFC's Court McGee triumphs over adversity

Fighters are not strangers to adversity. It’s a lot harder to persevere in a world class athletic competition when your opponent is punching you in the face or trying to choke you unconscious. But even in the rough and tumble world of mixed martial arts, few athletes have overcome as much as Ultimate Fighter finalist Court McGee.

McGee, who fights Kris McCray on Saturday night’s Ultimate Fighter Finale, didn’t have a notably rough childhood. McGee was a punctual student who got good grades through high school. But in college, McGee found himself in a rapid downward spiral.

McGee suffered a shattered collarbone while in college and was given prescription pain medications. He became addicted to the pills and started mixing them with alcohol. Before long, he was using cocaine and heroin. And at the tender age of 20, Court McGee died of a heroin overdose.

“I was at a low point,” McGee recounts. “I’d lost my friends, my family, my material possessions. I was just living to use. I didn’t have the (guts) to kill myself but I’d lost the will to live. My drug of choice was whatever you had on you. It was Sunday night and I was going to shoot up with heroin. I shot up one last time before going to bed and shot up too much. I got hot and sweaty and then I was out. I woke up a week or so later.”

McGee was discovered and taken to a hospital. He was pronounced clinically dead but EMTs were able to revive him. He went to rehab and following a couple relapses he became fully sober in 2006. McGee hasn’t taken a drug or a drink since. McGee got married, had a son, and has another child on the way. He also embarked on an MMA career that has brought him much success.

Following a full nine months of training, McGee had his first MMA fight. His dedication paid off as he had great success on smaller shows. His official record is 8-1 but McGee reports an unofficial record of 13-1 going into the Ultimate Fighter including a few fights that weren’t recorded and one that was deemed an amateur bout. His only loss came to the highly successful and world traveled Jeremy Horn.

Given his past history and the strains of the Ultimate Fighter house, McGee had to consider whether he wanted to participate on the Ultimate Fighter. Alcohol is available, there isn’t a lot to do, and pain arises with a number of fights in a short period of time. McGee ultimately concluded it was an opportunity worth pursuing.

“I questioned myself and whether I was going for the right reasons,” McGee says. “If I thought I didn’t know whether to do it, I wouldn’t go. But I didn’t have that feeling. I had to think long and hard and I came to the conclusion that I would be of maximum usefulness to others and God saw fit that I was able to carry a message of strength and hope. If I can make one person change then it will have been worth it.”

Despite his success going into the show, McGee was overlooked by coaches Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz when it was time to select fighters. Liddell chose McGee as the third-to-last overall pick. It worked out for the best, as McGee excelled training with the longtime UFC light heavyweight champion.

“I was able to get to know the real Chuck Liddell,” McGee notes. “He’s a soft spoken guy and helps a lot of people. He’s a genuinely good person. He was a lot different than what I thought going in – the partier and the superstar. He’s absolutely a good dude. He took care of me when I was down (in San Luis Obispo) and I trained with him for a month (after the show). He did nothing but help me and he was training for his own fight. In my eyes, Chuck is awesome.”

McGee ended up fighting four times on the show over the course of six weeks to advance to the finals of the tournament. He defeated Seth Baczynski via a hard fought decision in the first fight. He then lost to Tito Ortiz’s Nick Ring thanks to a controversial decision. Many felt the fight should have gone to a third round but Ring was given the victory.

Following that controversy and injuries to other fighters, McGee was brought back for the next round. He submitted James Hammortree via guillotine choke. Finally McGee defeated Brad Tavares with a rear naked choke. McGee turned it on in the third round with punches and scored a last minute submission finish. That victory leads to a clash with Kris McCray on Saturday night.

“I know that he’s a tough grinder and I’m a tough grinder too,” McGee says. “I’m going to try to capitalize on my conditioning, out-striking him, and possibly out-wrestling him. I’m looking for the finish in this one. I’ve done everything I can to be ready.”

McGee may or may not be crowned the Ultimate Fighter on Saturday night. But it’s hard to count him out of anything following his improbable life journey.

--Todd Martin

 
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