Dead Man Fighting: UFC's Court McGee Seeks to Change Lives

Jeremy Botter@jeremybotterMMA Senior WriterJune 10, 2015

USA Today

Court McGee has a story to tell.

Chances are, you’ve heard his story. McGee, raised in a good family with a good upbringing, started taking painkillers to help with an injury and then fell into the clutches of a deep and enduring heroin addiction that nearly took his life. In fact, it did take his life, in a manner of speaking; after an overdose in 2005, McGee was declared clinically dead before being resuscitated. He had to learn how to speak and walk again after that incident, and he had to learn how to live life.

But he did learn how to live again. He wasn’t perfect, and there were relapses.

"I took one drink in Vegas, and I ended up in Iowa four days later with no pants on and a long sleeve shirt, looking for meth,” McGee once said on The Ultimate Fighter.

In April 2006, McGee went clean, and this time, it would stick. Like many addicts, McGee can count out the time he has been clean, down to the hour. It is a way of remembering, of looking back at an accomplishment and seeing, yes, I can do this thing that I once thought was impossible. I once was lost, but now I'm found. Was blind, but now I see.

McGee’s story of addiction began circulating on The Ultimate Fighter in 2010 and gained even more traction when he won the show. He dedicated that win to everyone struggling with addiction, which casts a wider net than you might think.

The feedback was overwhelming. ESPN produced a documentary called Dead Man Fighting, and the din grew louder. McGee began hearing from friends of friends of friends, people who knew someone, somewhere who was struggling, and they all wanted to know one thing: How can I help?

McGee shared his story more and more, finding a release in the telling. His story became the most powerful tool in his arsenal, something with far greater impact than anything he does in the cage. He began to dedicate his life outside the Octagon to helping others who struggled with the same things he’d struggled with, trying to make sure they knew this wasn’t the end of the line.

Credit: Hope361 Kickstarter

Today, McGee is taking his life’s work to the next level with the launch of a new Kickstarter project that will fund something called Hope 361. It’s a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing hope to others who are struggling with addiction and seeks to help guide them through recovery. McGee is seeking $30,000 in funding; after little more than 24 hours, more than $7,000 has been donated.

McGee’s vision for Hope 361 is this: an online community where addicts who are struggling can share their stories with others, receive positive and encouraging messages, find videos documenting others who have been helped and connect with clinical outpatient and inpatient rehabilitation facilities. It will also help fund McGee’s speaking tour, where he shares his message of addiction and recovery with people of all ages.

McGee said that over 20 million people say they are in long-term recovery. Many of them started in their teenage years.

"It's important for me to start at the high school level and carry that message and say, listen: This is real. This actually happens," McGee said. "This is what will happen if you choose to do it. And if you have the courage today to choose not to do it, I encourage that choice."

McGee also visits prisons, drug rehab centers, youth correctional facilities and churches. Once, he went straight from a prison to a Mormon church.

The point, McGee believes, is that everyone is capable of being rescued. But people need others who care enough to look after them.

"It doesn’t matter who or how or how far they’re gone,” McGee said. “If you know somebody that’s struggling, this is a good way to help them.”

You can visit Court McGee's Kickstarter page for Hope 361. Jeremy Botter covers mixed martial arts for Bleacher Report.