Ian McCall: The Cursed Comeback

Just two years ago, Ian ‘Uncle Creepy’ McCall was weeks removed from a disappointing decision defeat to John Lineker. Though the loss had hurt McCall’s immediate contender status, there was no shame in coming up short to a fighter of Lineker’s ilk, especially considering that the Brazilian puncher had missed weight for the bout. In fact, fast forward two years later and I’m sure McCall wishes he could return to that positon, especially following this most recent setback. It’s been two years out of the cage now for McCall and whilst that fact alone is distressing, it’s the nature of the seemingly never ending delays that really stings.

McCall’s original return was set for August 8th 2015 as he was supposed to take on Dustin Ortiz in a rematch of their 2011 bout, a fight that ‘Uncle Creepy’ had won. That first victory four years prior was a pivotal one in McCall’s emergence as the world’s best Flyweight fighter, however, lots had changed since then. The introduction of the 125lbs division in the UFC had changed the Flyweight landscape completely in 2012, with the current McCall led crop being joined by dropping former Bantamweight contenders Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez. In the tournament to crown the inaugural UFC champion, McCall would take on Johnson in the semi-finals. The result, a precursor to some of the veteran’s recent awful run of luck.

In what was the first Flyweight fight in UFC history, McCall would overcome Johnson’s early speed and skill to eventually ground him in the third round to dominate him with top control. The tournament factor had meant that a draw would lead to a deciding fourth round and it seemed that we were headed that way after an exciting 15 minutes of back and forth action. However, to the surprise of many, Johnson was announced the decision winner. Stunningly, a scoring error had occurred and the fight was quickly overturned to a draw. In the ascendency as the third round had ended, a sudden victory round had been wrongly stolen from McCall, who had missed out on the opportunity to advance to the tournament final.

The eventual rematch would end unsuccessfully for McCall and his winless streak would continue as he was then also outpointed by the aforementioned Joseph Benavidez. Nonetheless, in August 2013 McCall would finally score his first victory inside the octagon as he defeated Illarde Santos in Brazil. However, multiple injuries would keep McCall out of the cage for eleven months before he finally returned to score a victory over Brad Pickett. In another foreshowing of his recent troubles, McCall would come down with a blood infection after making weight for his first scheduled bout with John Lineker but luckily wouldn’t be kept out for too long as the fight was rebooked for January 2015.

And so that brings us back to where we began, as a defeat to Lineker left McCall in need of a rebound win. On paper the Ortiz rematch was a good fit, a quite favourable matchup that would’ve marked three fights in just over a year, a rate much better than McCall had achieved the year prior. However, an injury would force ‘Uncle Creepy’ out and seemingly left him questioning his future in the fight game. With injuries piled up, it seemed that McCall may never fight again and sadly, those doubts still linger prominently eighteen months later. In May of 2016 though, McCall would decide to return to the octagon, matched with young rising contender Justin Scoggins at UFC 201.

The anticipation was reasonably high for McCall’s return. One of the few immediately recognisable and popular fighters at Flyweight, a revitalised McCall looked likely to still be a strong contender at 125lbs. Unfortunately though, two days before fight night Scoggins would pull out as he was unable to make the weight limit. Left without an opponent, McCall’s return would be disappointingly delayed. Luckily, that delay wouldn’t seem set to be too long as McCall’s comeback was then rebooked for September 10th against Ray Borg at UFC 203. Once again though, just days before the event McCall was left without an opponent as Borg fell ill on fight week. Desperate to finally make his return, McCall would quickly be rebooked again as he was then matched with Neil Seery for November 2016.

With his bad luck now surely behind him, McCall seemed to have a very favourable match up against a reliable veteran, at last everything seemed to be in place. Then inexplicably, more drama occurred. Just one day before fight night, McCall himself would pull out of the fight, reportedly ill with food poisoning. The shoe was now heartbreakingly on the other foot and it was McCall that had put a delay to his comeback. Seery had originally planned to make that fight his retirement bout but now understandably opted against it, rescheduling the cancelled McCall clash for two months later at UFC 208. It simply wasn’t meant to be though and Seery pulled out due to the passing of his mother-in-law.

Whilst still stunning, this cancellation had at least occurred early enough to allow McCall to find a replacement and UFC newcomer Jarred Brooks would step up to take Seery’s place. As fight night approached some media members and fans even joked at the obscene and surely impossible thought of McCall’s return being cancelled again. After both fighters made weight it seemed certain now that we would finally see ‘Uncle Creepy’ make his comeback. Then just hours before fight time, news broke that McCall had pulled out of the fight with gastrointestinal illness. Somehow, it had happened again. A scenario unlike anything ever before, the idea that every cloud has a silver lining is something often worth considering when recapping a situation like this.

However, as much as I’d absolutely love to end this retelling of McCall’s recent horrific professional life with some positivity, it’s honestly a hard thing to do. On two straight occasions now McCall has fallen ill on fight week and that coupled with the issues his opponents have suffered seem to be suggesting something. You don’t have to be spiritual to feel as though the cruel luck striking McCall is trying to tell him something and it’s hard to be sure that ‘Uncle Creepy’ will ever fight again. One thing is for sure though, if this is the end McCall will be remembered as one of the first recognized elite Flyweight fighters and a man with a personality that garnered a legitimate fan base. Whatever happens next in this torrid tale of McCall and his cursed comeback, those facts can never be taken from him.

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