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Court McGee: All That Matters is That You Show Up

On Sunday, February 17, 2013, Court McGee reached 2,500 days of sobriety.“Pretty crazy, huh?” he asked me with a laugh, breaking the silence over the phone when he told me how many days it had been since his last sip of alcohol when we spoke a couple of weeks earlier.While most pre-fight interviews focus on the previous result and the opponent on deck, speaking with the articulate 28-year-old who embodies the word “fighter” in many ways is always a chance to talk about so much more. There are very few topics that are off limits with McGee, who has never hesitated to discuss his past struggles, present situation inside and outside the cage, or future goals with nothing but complete openness and raw honesty.Fighting may be his profession, but the cage isn‘t just his place of business. As much as he loves the competition, fighting on the biggest stage in mixed martial arts also affords McGee a platform, a way to reach out to those who are struggling and going down the same dangerous paths he managed to survive.Win or lose, the man who was once clinically dead sees every fight as a chance to show others that you can make it out. It‘s a message he carried throughout his winning turn on Season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter, and the same one he will bring to the cage with him when he makes his welterweight debut Saturday night inside the Honda Center in Anaheim, California at UFC 157.“(Fighting isn‘t) the end-all, be-all,” said McGee, who faces veteran Josh Neer this weekend. “Don‘t get me wrong: it can feel like that. There are some days when you wake up and think it‘s the end of the world, and there are other days where it‘s the greatest feeling, but maintaining that sober lifestyle, and knowing that a loss isn‘t the end of the world”¦”One thing you get used to in talking with McGee is how quickly and frequently he shifts direction when he speaks, leaving sentences dangling without a conclusion as he pivots to a tangential thought.“You can lose jobs, gain jobs, make a lot of money, lose a lot of money,” he said, re-starting his paused point from a slightly different angle. “But it‘s kind of ‘Are you happy with where you‘re at?‘ and ‘Are you happy with what you‘re doing?‘ and ‘Do I think I‘m doing what my higher power thinks I should do?‘ and I am. I‘m able to carry the message to people all over the world.”As we spoke on a Monday afternoon earlier this month, McGee told me he lost a friend the day before. He said it with the flat tone and unwavering voice of a man who has spent a lot of time talking about friends who left this world too early, and one who knows all too well what it‘s like to be in the same place.“He was a great guy. He was funny, a little off ”“ he wasn‘t a real popular guy ”“ but there was something about him that was real personable; not a lot of people didn‘t get along with him, you know? He was a great guy, and for whatever reason, he overdosed on some sleeping medication. That was Saturday night or Sunday morning.“I just think that I fight to carry the message to people like that ”“ who haven‘t gone over the edge ”“ and think if I can make it out, you can make it out, and that gives me inspiration to show up. That‘s one of the things, man ”“ you‘ve just got to suit up and show up ”“ and I‘ve done that.”He‘ll suit up and show up again on Saturday, looking to halt a two-fight losing streak when he steps into the cage as a welterweight for the first time.Relocating to the 170-pound ranks was something McGee discussed with his coaches prior to his pairing with Costa Philippou last March. After dropping a unanimous decision to the surging Serra-Longo Fight Team member in Sydney, Australia, he returned to the cage four months later to take on Nick Ring at UFC 149 in Calgary, Alberta, putting his plan to change weight classes on hold once again.“About a week before I had agreed to fight Costa, I had been talking and thinking about going down to 170, but then I got offered the fight, so it was kind of like, ‘OK ”“ we‘ll take it, and then we‘ll go down after.‘ Then it was like, ‘OK, I‘ll fight Nick again; I‘ve got a good game plan going in. I‘ll stick with it, and just worry about cutting down after.‘“Immediately after, I called (UFC matchmaker) Joe (Silva) and said, ‘My next fight is going to be at welterweight.‘ It was part of the game plan for a while, but I thought the matchups were good. It ended up working out the way it did, but everything worked out the way it was supposed to, you know what I mean? I just have to be okay with the way things work, accept the way things are, and try to make the best of my decision, the decision of the judges, and try to kick some ass on the next one, you know?”McGee felt he did enough to earn the victory against the former in Australia, and just about everyone who saw the fight with the latter believed he should have been declared the winner in Calgary.Some f…

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