Ian “Uncle Creepy” McCall is about to do some crazy shit. And that’s saying something for a guy who has been a professional fighter since he was 18, ran with a gang of marauding rich kids called the Lords of South County who were basically Hawaiian surf asshole versions of the socs from The Outsiders and has gone toe-to-toe with the man many consider to be the best pound for pound fighter on Earth twice.
After a tumultuous run in the UFC in which he saw the promised land but never entered it before his last five fights were canceled for various snake bitten reasons, McCall recently requested his release from the organization. He was immediately snapped up by Japanese based promotion Rizin, where he will be competing in that promotion’s World Grand Prix tournament to crown its bantamweight champion on December 29.
So, yeah, that’s the crazy thing he’s about to do. In order to be the man, he’s going to have to fight and win three times in two days. That’s three more times than the surgeon general would likely recommend anyone fighting over the course of all eternity. So he’s got to cowboy up in a big way if he wants to get his career back on track.
McCall called SWACK from his hotel in Tokyo, Japan to talk about the state of the fight game, what joining Rizin means for his career and why he passionately hates his first round opponent Manel Kape. It’s a long wide ranging interview, and it’s damn entertaining.
Swack: Let’s jump right into it. You fight in three days. If things go well, you will be fighting three time in two days. That’s insane. How close are you to making weight? How can you cut that much and expect to fight that many times in such a short period?
IM: In Japan bantamweight is 134 and a half technically. (The half pound) is because of the kilograms thing. It’s a big relief. I needed to put on muscle after I was sick. I had a stress related illness called H. pylori. My life as a whole was extremely stressful from day one in the UFC.
I’m not blaming the UFC. My whole UFC career was shit. I went 2-3-1. It wasn’t a good run. After that first Demetrious Johnson fight that everybody loved me for and talks about…I call it my Al Bundy moment. At that point, I was number one in the world, and I showed that I was number one in the world. I beat DJ, and I got fucked. But I let outside circumstances fuck my life up. A divorce. A crazy ex-wife. Blah, blah, blah. I let those circumstances impact me negatively, and that’s no one’s fault but mine. But that’s what happened. The whole time at UFC there was just so much bad chi, as Frank Shamrock would say, that I contracted a stress related infection.
I went to the hospital six or seven times. I probably should have gone 10 times, but I toughed it out a few times at home. But each time I would go to the hospital, it would be a week of my life that was fucked. I wouldn’t be able to put on weight. I wouldn’t be able to eat. I wouldn’t be able to sleep. All that stuff over the course of a year ruined me.
Swack: What is your walking around weight?
IM: Generally? I’m waking up right now at about 138. So I walk around healthy at about 145.
Swack: It seems to me that 125 is a pretty ridiculous weight to ask a grown, adult male that walks around at 145 to hit and then be expected to do anything athletic, much less fight.
IM: Yeah, and you know what? The epidemic of weight cutting in our culture of MMA needs to stop. People don’t cut that much weight out here in Japan. If you go look at guys in UFC, and you see how big 25ers are…I got up to 155 pounds during my UFC tenure, fighting at 125. I see 25ers get up to 160, 165 pounds. It’s fucking crazy.
Swack: 135 seems reasonable. It seems like at 125, what does your body have left to give?
IM: Exactly. What happened with me was I had injuries, like I tore my hip. And then I focused a lot on mobility and strength. I did a lot of power lifting type stuff, and I got too heavy. I got way too heavy. I really started to do my due diligence, as I always do, with my diet and nutrition. I had to take this upon myself to create a healthy lifestyle.
Swack: In that regard, you’ve settled down, and you’ve told me you will be getting married soon. How does that change things?
IM: I’m finally at a point in my life that I realize this is what I need. I was a horrible boyfriend to every other woman I’ve ever dated. I never beat any women. I wasn’t abusive in any way shape or form. But I cheated like a motherfucker on everybody. I’ve always had a knack for getting girls. I’ve slept around a lot throughout my whole life, and I can’t…I have a daughter. I have a woman I love. Those things change you. I’ve grown up finally, and I don’t do those things. I don’t put myself in those situations.
Swack: What’s Japan been like so far?
IM: It’s wild. I’m running around the streets like a dumb American. But I’m walking around like a new man in a relationship. I’m walking around Tokyo, and I’m not looking at ass the whole time. I see the world differently than I used to, and it’s fun.
I love Japan. They treat me great. They pay well. They respect me. I know some of the older Japanese don’t like gaijin (foreigners) like me, tattooed up white kids that look like they’re in a fucking band or something. But overall, this culture is great. I love Japan very much. It’s interesting. We went on a three hour walk yesterday. It’s cold out, but I layered up and got to see all the sites.
Tokyo as a city goes on and on and on for as far as the eye can see. It’s amazing. It’s crazy to think that after the war…this country used to be an imperial power. They were a farming culture and a war culture. But once we did the asshole American thing, and we blew them up, to see what they have built is fucking incredible.
I’m looking out my window right now, and it’s just amazing. It’s so clean. It’s just incredible.
Swack: You mentioned them being a war culture. Rizin was started by the same people who ran Pride FC. Even though Rizin is relatively new, it’s steeped in tradition. So in a way, you are now a part of that culture. What’s that like?
IM: Yes, it’s very steeped in tradition. Sadly, I never got to fight in Pride. I never had my Pride days. But this is my opportunity to get that back. I get to fight for the same people, the same type of organization, the same rule set. I’ve never fought in a tournament like this before. It’s magic, and I love it. It’s really interesting to me and exciting. I haven’t been excited in years for a fight because of all the negativity I had going on.
“I’m actually excited to drive my heel through his cheekbone and hopefully fucking end his career, you know what I mean?”
Swack: Are the fans different in Japan and how so?
IM: Very much so. Very, very, very different. Much more respectful. They appreciate ground work. They like watching jiu jitsu. They’re more educated. American fans are the worst fans on the planet. Every fucking douchebag is like, ”Sweep the leg! Put him in a body bag.” It’s like, “Fucking shut up. Go away.” It’s just a bunch of idiots. Having the opportunity to fight out here and to be respected the way that they do is very much appreciated.
Swack: On the other hand, I would think some disrespect could be motivating for a fighter.
IM: Oh, it is. There’s a different rule set out here. There’s no elbows because they don’t like blood. Blood is bad for TV, but I get to soccer kick people and stomp people.
Swack: That’s fun.
IM: Yes. Now as a youth, I was an asshole. I got in a lot of street fights, and I just so happened to have kicked a few people in the head and stomped on a few people in brawls. It’s not something I’m proud of. Not something I’m bragging about. I’m sure I changed the course of some people’s lives indefinitely, which is fucked up. So I know how to stomp on people’s heads. I do. I’m good at it. And the fact that I get to stomp on (Manel Kape’s) head, who is a disrespectful piece of shit…He has a big mouth. He talks a lot of shit, and he’s just a douchebag, it makes me happy. I’m actually excited to drive my heel through his cheekbone and hopefully fucking end his career, you know what I mean?
It’s one thing to talk shit in a sport like this. But it’s another thing to be disrespectful like he is, to take it too far.
He fought a young man named Erson Yamamoto his last fight, who comes from a famous Japanese fighting family. He and his mom were fighting on the same card at the Rizin where my opponent fought him. Well, my opponent knocked him out. In the buildup to the fight, he goes,”After I knock you out, I’m going to fuck your mom.” And people were like,”What?”
There’s a time and a place to talk shit, bro. But don’t be disrespectful. Don’t disrespect a woman like that. I get you’re trying to get in his head, but on the other hand, I’m not Erson Yamamoto. I’m a much more dangerous person. So you talking shit to me like that is only going to make me want to hurt you. And like I said, I get to stomp you in the face once I get you on the ground, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’m not going to go for a submission on this kid. I’m going to try and hurt him as bad as possible. And honestly, if I can fucking end his career, I’ll do it. I would love to never hear from him again because he’s a piece of shit.
Swack: Do you consider him a step down in talent compared to what you’ve faced in the UFC?
IM: Of course. That doesn’t mean he sucks. He’s in the tournament for a reason. He’s 8-1 for a reason. He’s good. He’s a talented young man. But if you look at his record, he fought his first couple fights and he was his opponent’s only fight. He fought cab drivers, you know what I mean? So I think that’s two or three fights out of eight fights total. So his one loss is to a guy who is like 10-9. His biggest wins come against guys, and I’m doing finger quotes, who have a “winning” record of like 6-4 or 4-3. And the rest of his wins are against guys with losing records. He hasn’t fought anyone. So for him to talk a bunch of shit and think,”I’m a prodigy. I’m this. I’m that.” Bitch, I’ve been fighting the best people on the planet my whole career. I’ve fought Dominic Cruz. Guys like Charlie Valencia. Joseph Benavidez. Demetrius Johnson. Brad Pickett.John Lineker. Sure, I might have lost to some of them, but regardless you get the rub from some of the best dudes on the planet.
Swack: So when you’re preparing for a guy who maybe isn’t up to that standard, how do you avoid overconfidence?
IM: You can’t (be overconfident). He’s still a dangerous kid. He can fight. He’s got power in his hands. He’s got knockout power. And he’s the new breed of fighter. He’s well rounded. He’s nowhere near as good as I am at anything, but he’s still dangerous.
I’ve gone into the gym thinking I’m the shit and had amateurs beat my ass or some random kid who’s got one pro fight. That’s how it goes. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day. So you have to take this seriously.
Plus, I’ve got two more fights after this. I can’t overlook this kid at all. Granted, it’s three fights in two nights. So I need to save my body. I need to take him out as fast as possible and take the least amount of damage as possible because my second round opponent is the Japanese star Kyoji Horiguchi. He is a stud. He is the Japanese star. He’s what they’re banking off. He’s the number one seed in the tournament.
I’m kind of a dark horse because I haven’t fought in three years. But he has a tough first round opponent in this kid Gabriel Oliveira from Brazil. So hopefully they beat the shit out of each other for three rounds. Hopefully, I get my kid out in one round, and I can go into my semifinal fresh and feel better about the next day of fighting.
“Yeah. I look back and think that if I would have gotten that decision, and I had been world champ, obviously my life would have changed. I think I would have been the first Conor McGregor, you know? I would have been able to make millions.”
Swack: Sure. We’ll jump back into the tournament, but for one second lets digress. You talked about DJ being your Al Bundy moment, which is very understandable in the sense that it’s something people bring up a lot. At this point, a lot of people consider DJ to be the best pound for pound fighter on the planet. He’s definitely become the consummate professional fighter.
IM: From our first fight, he has done nothing but evolve and evolve and evolve. He has become I think the greatest fighter in MMA history, to be honest. It’s him or Jon Jones and Jon Jones is a piece of shit as a person. But he’s an incredible athlete. I think Jon Jones is the most gifted fighting athlete we’ve ever seen on this planet. I really think he has the most god given talent. Now the hardest working fighter on the planet with some pretty fucking good natural gifts is Demetrious Johnson. In my eyes, DJ is the GOAT. Especially with Jon Jones being caught for (PEDs), I think he gets taken out of the equation a little bit.
Swack: In regard to DJ being the GOAT in your eyes… Also in your eyes, and the eyes of many others, me included, you beat the GOAT the first time you fought. Now you’re a fighter. But correct me if I’m wrong, you’re also a human being.
Swack: On some level it has to eat at you the different trajectories your careers have taken.
IM: Yeah. I look back and think that if I would have gotten that decision, and I had been world champ, obviously my life would have changed. I think I would have been the first Conor McGregor, you know? I would have been able to make millions.
DJ will never make that much money. I think that I would have been able to really push it, and I would have been that star that they needed. I would have been able to push that division. But that’s life.
I let my life spiral out of control after that fight because of outside things. I partied too much. I was raising a daughter on my own because her mom was doing drugs, going to rehab and going to jail. People don’t know this stuff, but I had a lot going on. At two and a half, my daughter was diagnosed with a disease where she couldn’t walk. That’s taxing.
On top of that, I dated a bunch of idiots. But again, that’s purely my own fault. It is what it is. Right now is my time to put my life and my career on the path that it needs to be.
Swack: First of all, hold that thought about DJ and money. Because there was a development you may have missed because it was in the news just yesterday when you were travelling, and I want to talk to you about it. But before we dive into that, all politics aside, all history aside, is there a part of you that wants to win this tournament, get your shit back in order and get another fight with DJ in UFC?
IM: Oh, I would love that. But honestly, I don’t want to go back to the UFC. Maybe we can make it happen, but I don’t care about returning to UFC at this point. We had our fights. He was the victor in the end. And look what he’s gone on to do. I can sit here and say that I beat him that day, but would I have been able to do what he’s done? Fuck, man, I don’t know. He’s incredible.
We both genuinely care about each other. We don’t have each other’s phone numbers or anything, but I genuinely care for him, and he genuinely cares for me. We’re friends of sorts. I wish him nothing but the best. I hope he makes a bunch of money and provides for his family.
I’m on my own journey. I’m going to make my own star here in Japan with this company.
I think that the UFC fucked itself. I think the WME bought that company for way too much money. They upped their operating cost by about 12 times. Who goes and buys a company and goes and ups their operating cost by 12 times?
Swack: It does seem pretty risky. But let’s go back to the DJ development. He challenged Floyd Mayweather to a no-grappling MMA match.
IM: Yeah, I saw that.
Swack: That’s a longshot to happen. But I could see a future where there are a lot of crossover promotions. I’m talking about fighters that don’t have the pull of a Mayweather or a McGregor. If the money was right, would you consider boxing?
IM: Yeah, I would. But to be honest, look at the guys I’d be fighting. Lomachenko? Fuuuuuck that noise. Boxers are so much more technical than mma guys are, especially at my weight. I think I would need a year to focus purely on boxing to even have a shot at not getting my ass completely handed to me in a boxing match against a high level professional. I love boxing. I respect boxers so much. I grew up watching boxing. I would do it if the money was right obviously, but it would be a dangerous move. I think I could hang purely out of toughness and athleticism, but again, I would need at least a year of pure boxing training.
Swack: On the other hand, it’s easy to see why MMA fighters are interested in exploring other options after the cash Mayweather/McGregor generated. In fact, the UFC put out their new tiered sponsorship numbers for fighters last week, and they looked kind of insulting to me.
IM: They are.
Swack: The UFC just doesn’t seem that equitable in regard to what they pay fighters to put their lives on the line versus what the company is making. Do you think fighters are going to look beyond the UFC to make a living more and more going forward?
IM: I think so. I think people are going to start doing what I’ve done and start taking their career in their own hands. I asked them for, and I was very polite about it, you don’t need to be an asshole, but I said, “Hey, I know it’s been almost three years since I’ve fought. I get it. I’ve had nothing but injuries, pullouts and drama. But If I’m ever going to fight again, I need a chance to make six figures.” I asked for ($50,000 to show and $50,000 more for a win) or please release me. And they offered me 24 and 24. Once they gave me my release, within 24 hours of me announcing it, Rizin hit me up.
It is this crazy ass tournament, which is exciting to me. I have a chance to make six figures. A couple of six figures actually (up to $200,000).
“Guess what? I’m still better than you as a fighter because I have put in the time and the work. I am a better fighter and the better athlete. And that’s just how it goes. I did my work to make this happen. It doesn’t matter where you come from. It’s about how hard you work.”
Swack: Let’s talk about the tournament. Because it is fucking crazy. How exactly does this tournament work?
IM: First round is on the 29th. Once I win the first round, I fight two more times on the 31st. If I win, I’m the Rizin bantamweight champion. It’s bananas. But this is what my career needed. I haven’t fought in three years. So I needed to make a splash and get my name back on top. I know I can do it. I know I can win this fucking tournament. I’m going to win this tournament.
Swack: Before we close up, I wanted to touch on your background because it’s the exact opposite of the stereotypical fighter’s background. Basically, you come from old money, right?
IM: I come from the one percent. I grew up on the beach in a beautiful home. Granted, if you know surf culture, we fight every single day on the beach. It’s douchey, these are my waves, blah, blah, blah. The whole Hawaiian surfer thing. The beach that we were “protecting,” I’m finger quoting again, was right below the Ritz Carlton. We had the Monarch Beach club right down the beach where all of my friends’ parents had houses and memberships. So it was a bunch of rich kids running around picking fights.
But I’ve been doing martial arts my entire life. I love fighting. I don’t give a fuck if you’re from the ghetto or a good neighborhood. I had a good childhood. My family is amazing people. Yes, they’re rich. People always say they’re from the favela or they’re from the ghetto, and that’s why they’re tough. Guess what? I’m still better than you as a fighter because I have put in the time and the work. I am a better fighter and the better athlete. And that’s just how it goes. I did my work to make this happen. It doesn’t matter where you come from. It’s about how hard you work.
Swack: There’s also the fighting spirit. You can be a workout warrior but still not be able to fight. That spirit has to be there too.
IM: Yeah, I was born to fight. I was born to do this. I love to do this. That’s why I’ve been fighting professionally since I was 18 years old. This is the only job I’ve ever had. That’s crazy.
I don’t take this lightly. This is my life. This is my love. This is my mistress. My love/hate relationship with this business and sport is something I love but at the same time, it’s a motherfucker. This sport has put miles on my body that I’ll never get back. It’s killed brain cells that I’ll never get back. But you know what? I love it.
Swack: At the end of the day, why are you willing to do something as crazy as potentially fighting three times in two days?
IM: I haven’t fought in three years, so this is me making up for lost time. This is going to hurt my body like a motherfucker when I’m done. But it’s going to be worth it because I’m going to have a big, shiny belt around my waist and a new world title. This is legacy shit. I’m reaching the end of my career, and I’m able to put an exclamation point on it and not just be the guy who almost beat DJ.
I don’t care about that anymore. I didn’t beat him. People need to realize that. He beat me fair and square in a rematch. That’s it. End of story. People need to get over my Al Bundy moment.