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 Marcus McGhee reacts after his victory over JP Buys of South Africa in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 12, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC)
Athletes

Marcus McGhee: 'I'm Trying To be Free'

After A Breakout 2023, Marcus Mcghee Is Hoping To Keep The Good Times Rolling At UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs Walker 2

If this whole fighting thing doesn’t work out for the quartet of Marcus McGhee, Jalin Turner, Andre Fili and Payton Talbott, perhaps the UFC standouts can take their show on the road as a skateboarding troupe.

McGhee might have been already on that road if not for life and, ultimately, mixed martial arts, but fate has a funny way of getting in the way of previous plans.

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“I was on that route, and part of me still feels like I could try to chase it now if I really gave it my all,” said McGhee when asked if he had the potential to go pro as a skateboarder. “But my focus fell off. I was into girls, started having babies, doing things I shouldn't be doing.”

Marcus McGhee kicks JP Buys of South Africa in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 12, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC)
Marcus McGhee kicks JP Buys of South Africa in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 12, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Powers/Zuffa LLC)

The father of four laughs the laugh that comes with age, wisdom, experience and all that other good stuff that doesn’t usually show up in a teenager’s world.

 

“It was skateboarding, but it was also a party,” he said. “So it's kind of cool right now to see certain people that are still hardcore skateboarders and professional skateboarders, but they're starting to bring the health and fitness world into skateboarding.” 

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That's no fun. 

“Right? That's how I used to think,” he laughs. “I used to think that all the time. ‘What health and fitness, bro, let's go drink a bunch of beers and go skate all day.’” 

Marcus McGhee Scores First Round Knockout | UFC Fight Night: Luque vs Dos Anjos
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Marcus McGhee Scores First Round Knockout | UFC Fight Night: Luque vs Dos Anjos
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Now 33, McGhee’s attitude has changed considerably, and with two wins, two finishes and two Performance of the Night bonuses under his belt since making his UFC debut last year, that was clearly the right move. But as he prepares for his third walk to the Octagon this Saturday against Gaston Bolanos, the skateboarder inside remains, with old lessons still applying today.

“I think there are a lot of similarities,” said McGhee, who submitted Journey Newson and knocked out JP Buys in his first two UFC bouts. “The consistency part, showing up. I also feel like getting techniques down, too, because skateboarding is very similar to MMA. You have to do it over and over and over again, and you beat yourself up over and over and over again just to land. That's one trick, just right, and you’re not settling for the trick just to be done. It's like, okay, how did you do the trick? It's cool that you did it, but how much technique went behind it? Did you put your own flair to it? All those things. So I think that plays well into the MMA world. I don't think it's similar to a lot of these other sports like wrestling and judo and everything, but to say that there's nothing that's adding value, I think we'd be wrong there.”

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It apparently worked for McGhee, who never looked back after finding an MMA gym in his adopted home state of Arizona. He turned pro in 2020 after a short amateur career, won six of his first seven bouts, then made a splash to remember in the UFC in 2023.  It was a feel-good story in a world that needs all of those it can get, and while negativity usually rules on social media, in the case of McGhee, it’s seemingly been all positive.

 Marcus McGhee secures a rear choke submission against Journey Newson in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on April 29, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Marcus McGhee secures a rear choke submission against Journey Newson in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on April 29, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

“It feels good, but I always say there's plenty of people out there that could probably find some badness in me,” he said. “And honestly, I own it. I haven't always been the person that I am and how could I be? The world is a tough place. I've been raised tough, people are raised tough, people have different changes of heart, and I'm not really trying to push any negativity back out in the world, and I think that kind of helps in everything that I do.” 

McGhee is a good guy doing the best he can for himself and his family. And despite his newfound fame, he’s got a few folks ready to keep him in line if his ego gets out of hand.

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“They are excited about it and have a little bit more understanding of it,” he said of his kids’ reaction to his success. “But they're also like, ‘Yeah, don't get too big. You're not that big, dad. You're still our dad.’ (Laughs) It's kind of cool to see their reaction because it kind of keeps me humble, as well. It keeps me grounded and lets me know what's real and what's not.”

Maybe that’s why the fans are invested in McGhee’s story and eager to see what comes next. That, and a one hundred percent finish rate. That’s worth noting, too.

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“I am not trying to dwell on too many things while I'm in there, he said of his ability to end his fights before the judges get involved. “I'm just trying to be free, see what's available and throw things. I'm not trying to overthrow or trying to really load up and land; I'm just trying to touch these guys. But the opposite side of it is that I am trying to go for it. This is going to be a fight. I'm putting the pace on guys, and any opportunity that does open, you don't have to take every door that opens, but I tend to take those doors pretty often. I will take the chances. I'd rather have the feeling of loss than that feeling of, man, I didn't do anything in there.”

UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs Walker 2 took placelive from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on January 13, 2024. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!