Ian McCall had a muted reaction when ring announcer Bruce Buffer read the verdict of the judges after his fight March 3 with Demetrious Johnson in Sydney, Australia, declaring Johnson the winner and sending him to the finale of the UFC flyweight tournament.
There was no tantrum, no kicking, no cursing. More than anything, McCall was angry at himself. He believed he'd done enough to deserve the decision over Johnson, but he also knew he didn't fight the way he needed, or wanted.
Only an hour later, though, McCall learned he'd gotten a reprieve. The commission had tallied the scores incorrectly and instead of a majority decision loss, the bout was a majority draw. That meant there would be a rematch for the right to meet Joseph Benavidez for the title.
Again, though, McCall had a muted reaction. There was no wild celebration in light of his second chance. His rematch with Johnson will be Friday at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., in the main event of UFC on FX 3.
He's pleased at the opportunity, but it wasn't like he was doing cartwheels when he got it. Given McCall's wild life story, though, it's quite understandable.
McCall has been through more in his nearly 28 years than most men go through in their lifetimes. He began drinking and smoking at 8 years old and lived a life that he said "definitely, without question, has taken a few years off of my life." As a young man, he said, "I wanted to be a bad guy and live on the wild side, and so that's the life I led."
McCall was once declared legally dead after ingesting a potent mix of drugs, including marijuana, Xanax and Oxycontin, as well as alcohol, while preparing to get a tattoo. If there was a high-risk behavior, he engaged in it.
He's not the first person to live that kind of life and, sadly, he won't be the last. But for a man with the talent to become one of the elite fighters in mixed martial arts, the abuse he inflicted on his body was confounding.
He'll turn 28 on July 5, but he might be 33 in fighter years given what he's done to his body.
"I've been through a lot of adversity in my life," McCall said. "Let's face it: I'm on borrowed time here. I died once from drugs and was in a coma. I have crashed cars at high speed. I've lived my life on the edge for a long time."
And he's been around many others who have lived the same type of high-risk lifestyle. He said probably 30 people he was close to have died prematurely, many from drug issues, others from suicide.
It's all taken its toll on him, and that pain and those memories will never leave him.
Still, he said, his life has turned in the right direction.
"I did plenty of bad things in my life, more than I like to even really remember," he said. "I sold drugs. I carried guns. I did some horrible, horrible things, to myself and to other people. But I learned from it, you know? I changed my ways.
"MMA really saved my life. It got me back on the straight and narrow. And since then, I've gotten my act together. I have a family now. I have a wife and a daughter and two dogs and a cat that I love and I have to feed and provide for and take care of. I'm lucky, I guess, because I realized that the old me would be worthless in doing that. I needed to change the way I lived so that I could do what I needed to do for my family. There's always going to be risk and temptation for me, but it's not just about me anymore."
It's interesting how perspective changes after a brush with death. He didn't hear a choir of angels sing and God never spoke to him.
Surviving, though, impacted his life in a way he can't entirely explain.
"It was like I woke up from a sleep and I wondered, 'Why do I have all these tubes in me?' " he said. "I remember the doctor wagging his finger at me and saying, 'You screwed up.' I guess I'm just lucky, genes or whatever, but I recovered pretty quickly from that.
"I could have been dead and gone forever, buried and forgotten about, and the earth would have continued on without me. But I'm fortunate to have survived not only that, but everything I did in my life, and to be at this point where I have a beautiful family that means the world to me. I don't want [my prior] life anymore because I know all that will do is hurt the people I don't want to hurt."
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