Back from the Brink

By Brian Knapp Jun 19, 2010
Court McGee understands the meaning behind second chances better than most. Near-death experiences have a tendency to change even the most hardened of men.

A reformed drug addict who partook in everything from prescription pain pills to hardcore illegal narcotics, McGee lay motionless and unresponsive on a bathroom floor in 2005. He reached his rock bottom when he injected a lethal dose of heroin into his veins and collapsed near death next to a toilet. Fate spared him.

“One particular night, a Sunday night, I shot up too much,” McGee told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” program. “Immediately after I shot up, I knew I’d shot up too much, and the lights went out. Thank God that my cousin and her friend showed up. They started CPR. They called 911. The ambulance showed up. They were able to do CPR, and they defibrillated me and brought me back.”

Still, his ordeal was only beginning.

“I was in the hospital for a number of days,” McGee said. “I got out, and for whatever reason, because my family loves me, they took me to a rehab facility.”

He speaks with surprising candor and clarity when recalling the incident, the dark days leading him to it and how close he came to missing out on the life he now leads and enjoys.

“I lost my family. I lost my friends,” McGee said. “I was spiritually and emotionally bankrupt. I didn’t have the balls to kill myself, but I didn’t want to be alive.”

The road back from the brink was treacherous and difficult. Kicking his habits did not come easy, as failure was an early companion.

“I had to learn how to start over,” McGee said. “I had to learn how to walk again and eat -- all the basic things you learn to do when you’re a little kid. I relapsed a couple of times, and about five months later, it finally hit me that I couldn’t drink and I couldn’t use any more, not at all, and so I had to refrain from it all. That was April 16, 2006.”

In the four years since, McGee has settled into life without addiction, and his professional mixed martial arts career has taken off. The 25-year-old -- whose lone defeat came by decision to former UFC light heavyweight title contender Jeremy Horn -- will meet Kris McCray in the middleweight final at “The Ultimate Fighter” Finale this Saturday at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

During his stint on Season 11 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, McGee was befriended by former light heavyweight champion and UFC hall of famer Chuck Liddell. The two grew close during the six weeks of taping, as “The Iceman” took McGee under his wing.

“I didn’t know what to think of Chuck,” McGee said. “Of course, he was the man for five years, and he’s what made the sport what it is today, but I didn’t know what to expect from him. I showed up, and he was at every practice. He’s a soft-spoken good guy. He’s up for the competition and the challenge, and you can feed off that. He’s super intense.”

Once filming on the show wrapped, McGee followed Liddell to The Pit in Arroyo Grande, Calif., where he spent half of his training camp in advance of his matchup with McCray, an Ultimate Warrior Challenge veteran who sports a perfect professional record.

“It was absolutely an honor to meet Chuck -- the real Chuck Liddell,” McGee said. “I got to hang out with him, and he’s a cool dude. He’s got a new fan and a new friend.”

Life in Orem, Utah, where McGee shares a modest apartment with his wife and son, has never been better.

“I have a family,” McGee said. “I have a son. I have a wife. I have another son on the way. I’m happily married. I have a host of good friends. My family’s back in my life. I have a career. I don’t have a lot of money. I have an old vehicle. I have a little three-bedroom apartment kind of in the ghetto of Orem, but the thing is I’m happy. Regardless of what happens, I have a lot more gratitude in my life for the small things.”

McGee sees himself as a potential inspiration for those who struggle with the same demons that nearly killed him, and MMA gives him an avenue through with to reach others.

“I lost everything, had nothing. I was unemployable. I had no friends. It was pretty traumatic,” he said. “No matter what, the biggest thing is through my stories and what I’ve been through, if I can help just one person make a small change in their life and maybe not do the same s--t that they’ve been doing and decide to get out of the drug life … if I can give can give them any sort of inspiration and one person makes it out of it, then this will all have been worth it, whether I win or lose.”
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