To Hell and Back: Utah MMA fighter slams addiction to the mat

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PROVO, UTAH (ABC4) – Court McGee is Utah’s only active UFC fighter. He’s known as “The Crusher.” Rising through the ranks of local competition he then punched his way onto the national stage by winning SPIKE T.V’s 11th season of the Ultimate Fighter. Now he has made several appearances in the UFC’s top-level Octagon.

But before he became a champion, he was battling a deadly opponent. Addiction. A fight that literally cost him his life, for a few minutes.

And when life knocked this fighter to the ground he felt he had one choice, stand up. He refused to tap out.

On Sept. 9, 2005, McGee overdosed on heroin. He said he didn’t know what really happened.

“When I shot up, it was a little too much or a little too pure, I just went ‘Woah’ (expletive) and then I went out,” McGee explains.

His heart and pulse were stopped for 8 minutes.

McGee’s journey to becoming the “baddest man on the planet” was abruptly halted, with the drugs taking him down a dark hole few people come back from.

However, “I was not willing to give up on my dream,” he states.

His journey through addiction started the same as many other people, a series of gateways. “Sneaking into my dad’s beer.” is where it began for him, he says. Next, abusing pills followed.

“Slowly got to where I would run out of my prescription, so I started spending whatever money I had on prescription pills, and then the prescription pills started getting too expensive,” McGee recalls.

The drugs overwhelmed him and became the center of his world.

“As long as I had a little bit of Adderall or a little bit of something, to boost me, cuz coffee quit working, I could get up and go.”

 “I could not make enough money to buy enough Oxycontin or enough pain pills,” he adds.

A cheaper and deadlier substitute was found.

“A friend said, ‘I got some heroin, some black tar heroin, Dude, it costs ten bucks for this much, and it’s the same as having four or five oxycontin 80s,'” McGee recalls.

So he gave it a try..

“And so I sat down, and he wrapped up my arm, mixed me up a little shot, and I remember like it was yesterday, I remember what vein he went in, and I was like ‘Let’s do it,’ and he said, ‘Are you sure?’ And, I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,'” McGee recalls.

The heroin hit McGee fast, and it seemed like all of his problems went away. He mentions thinking, “As long as I have heroin, I’ll be okay.”

But that was not the case. The one shot led the fighter to twenty or thirty small shots a day to maintain his addiction. One day, he took it too far.

“I was trying to overcome a craving beyond my mental control. I shot up a little too much heroin,  I made this a little too pure, and I died.”

Rescue workers used recovery drugs to reverse the effects of the heroin overdose, a day and a half later when McGee came to, he was mad at the world, plus he was facing charges that could have sent him to prison.

But McGee was not about to repeat the mistakes. He took advantage of a 12-step program and diligently attended his Friday meetings. The steel will that would bring the fighter to a championship started to manifest itself by helping him to fight back against heroin’s deadly grip.

“I went down an MMA gym, or a jiu-jitsu gym, started learning jiu-jitsu, there was another gym that had boxers in it, I got my butt kicked by like this 14-year-old boxer, and I was like ‘I gotta learn.’ So I started to learn how to work the mitts work the bags,” he recalls.

“All of a sudden, I was back on track. No matter what, I was going to become an Ultimate Fighter.”

Court was later invited to start public speaking. He spoke to law enforcement officers, and then kids, and started to find his redemption. He realized that fighting in the octagon and being able to help at-risk kids gave his life a deeper meaning than ever before.

Courtesy UFC

“That is what gives me the motivation to step into the octagon and fight the best guys in the world in the UFC,” McGee explains. “Because I know I have the power to connect, with especially youth that are struggling and want a way out. I can tell them exactly what I did and the exact feelings I had, and why I did the things that I did”

Now, when he steps into the Octagon to fight, Court “The Crusher” McGee says, “I go out there to carry the message to the person who has no hope, the person who is on that bed, when they came out of their coma, to say, ‘Hey, listen, dude,  If I can do this, you can do it!’

McGee is unique in his use of his platform as a UFC fighter to help others fight addiction. He started the McGee Project to help people fight addiction, traveling the country from big cities to rural areas to share his story of hope and to let people know addictions can be conquered.

One of the more unique aspects of the McGee Project is the people who used to arrest, prosecute and lock Court up, now help him and have become his greatest allies.

Representatives from The McGee Project explain, “There are amazing people out there that want to help these young people, we have partnered with gyms and created a space where youth and young adults who commit to sobriety, can have free access to a gym membership and gear for up to 3 months.” 

The McGee Project helps with other issues besides addiction, they also focus on mental health and suicide prevention.

To learn more about the foundation and how to help them with their mission, you can find the McGee Project here. The organization is community funded, if you wish to help the foundation you can learn how to donate here.

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