The past few years have not been kind to former UFC flyweight, Ian McCall. He has seen a staggering eight scheduled fights fall through due to injuries and illnesses of both McCall and his opponents. He has only had two fights in that time period: a decision win over Brad Pickett and a decision loss to John Lineker.
Since his most recent canceled bout at UFC 208, McCall has had bouts with gastrointestinal issues, depression, and what he perceived to be CTE-related symptoms. He has seemed to have gotten his health and mind back under control and feels he is ready to fight again; but not with the UFC.
The move to Rizin
During his personal struggles, McCall (13-5-1) became doubtful that he would ever fight again, especially at the rate he was being paid. The 33-year-old asked for a $100,000 payout for a victory in his next fight. This demand was rejected by the UFC, who offered McCall less than half of his price. He proceeded to fire his manager and ask for a release from the UFC. The release was granted and McCall signed with Rizin, a Japanese promotion founded by former Pride president, Nobuyuki Sakakibara. McCall will make his debut on December 29 at “Rizan FF 8: World Grand Prix 2nd Round” in Saitama, Japan where he will compete in the bantamweight tournament.
McCall is showing no desire to make friends at his new job. He has publicly expressed his intentions to “stomp heads” in the Japanese promotion. McCall is not the only one willing to dish out insults though. A press conference altercation with his first opponent, Manel Kape nearly came to blows before security stepped in. Kape first refused to shake McCall’s hand, talked over his comments to reporters, and repeatedly and intentionally bumped into McCall during the face-off until a frustrated “Uncle Creepy” walked off stage. The bad blood between the two opponents has grown, including a hilarious Twitter fight, and is sure to result in an entertaining bout in December.
Rizin World Grand Prix 2017 outlook
When kung fu black-belt, Ian McCall steps into the Rizin ring for the first time, he will enter a new chapter of his career along with some drastic changes. McCall will fight at bantamweight for the first time since 2011, taking on Manel Kape (7-1) in a tournament style fight card. McCall, who is used to being the larger fighter at flyweight will have to overcome a bigger opponent in Kape. At a recent press conference, Kape promised to finish McCall within three minutes. If McCall keeps his promise instead and stomps Kape’s head in the quarterfinal matchup, he will have to turn around and fight again in two days. In fact, the semi-final AND final matches are all scheduled to take place on December 31. This means that if McCall makes it to the finals, he will fight three times in three days. This will be a massive test of durability and conditioning for the injury-prone McCall who has only fought once within the past three years.
If Ian McCall can take out Manel Kape, he has a potential matchup with former UFC flyweight standout, Kyoji Horiguchi (20-2). McCall has expressed respect for Horiguchi as well as a desire to fight him. This would be a very interesting bout given the high level striking of McCall’s kung fu and Horiguchi’s karate along with the strong grappling and submission potential of both fighters. The other side of the bracket features experienced Japanese fighters Takafumi Otsuka and Shintaro Ishiwatari. The pair are the reigning bantamweight champions of Deep and Pancrase respectively but may not possess the striking ability to handle McCall or Horiguchi.
Ian McCall will have to get past a very talented young fighter to get a potential shot at his former UFC coworker, Horiguchi. A semi-final victory would only set up a match with one of Japan’s most experienced veterans. Expect McCall to enter Rizin with something to prove. He feels that he is finally in a good place mentally and physically again which is not good news for opponents. The Rizin roster is full of world-class bantamweights that are ready to fight each other day after day. If the “Uncle Creepy” of old is back, he could enter 2018 as their king.
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