Former WEC bantamweight Ian McCall (9-2) didn’t waste any time establishing himself as the best flyweight in mixed martial arts, earning a convincing decision win on Feb. 18 over Jussier “Formiga” da Silva (11-1), the man most had previously pegged as the best at 125.
In a featured bout at Tachi Palace Fights 8 in Lemoore, Calif., McCall used his striking, footwork, and takedown defense to frustrate da Silva for the last two rounds. But before he took control, McCall had to survive Formiga’s patented grappling assault during round one.
Da Silva got a takedown early, but McCall managed to pop back up to his feet. However, Formiga dragged him back down and took McCall’s back during a scramble.
Once da Silva as your back, he’s just about impossible to shake off. McCall knew it and realized before long he’d have to play it safe, fight off the rear naked choke attempts, and accept that he’d be down 1-0 with two rounds left.
“I was kind of laughing at myself,” McCall told ProMMAnow.com of the moment da Silva transitioned into back control. “I knew that was exactly what he wanted to do. In all honesty, I don’t want to say I was shocked, but I was kind of in awe…of how easily he took my back. I’m a scramble wrestler. I thought, oh, I’ll be fine, I’ve worked on it a lot. It was just a stupid mistake.”
To his credit, McCall didn’t let da Silva lock on the choke attempt, even though Formiga had his back for most of the round.
“Luckily I was near my corner and had my [Jiu Jitsu] coach Giva Santana in my ear the whole time,” McCall said. “There was maybe one time where he slipped an arm in where I felt it go kind of close to under my chin, but it wasn’t much of a concern and I just pushed it away. He had good control on the back, though. “Maybe a minute into it, I was like, there’s no way I’m getting out of this.”
Despite the setback, McCall didn’t shy away from going on the offensive. He threw a leg kick early on, always a risk against an opponent looking for a takedown, but McCall stayed on his feet. When da Silva tried to push him up on the fence and work from the clinch, McCall again fought out of it, using a spinning back elbow to work his way back to the center.
Later on, McCall turned the tables, pushing Formiga up on the fence and working in some nice elbows and knees. That was where the tide started to turn. From ground-and-pound, body shots, punches to the head, McCall looked strong in round two and carried the momentum into the final and deciding round.
“I didn’t really find my rhythm until half way through the third round,” he said. “I started to switch up stances more and bob and weave better. His stand up was just like I thought it was. He didn’t throw any kicks, which I thought he would; I think maybe he was worried about getting taken down. I didn’t take many clean shots, but when he did hit me, he didn’t really faze me.”
Although McCall had fought under the bright lights of the WEC, the bout against da Silva represented a turning point. Admittedly, he was a bit undersized at bantamweight, but McCall also knew he didn’t train as hard as he needed to, going 1-2 for the Zuffa-owned promotion.
McCall was looking to better show what he was capable of as a fighter and begin his flyweight campaign with a bang. Nevertheless, McCall said he didn’t feel any extra nerves or pressure once fight time came around.
“I get real confident,” McCall said. “The anxiety is from weeks before that, months before that, where I’m laying in bed just thinking about it. It’s on my mind 24 hours a day. I daydream about the bad sh*t that’s going to happen to me while I’m in there.”
The night of the fight is different. “I get really happy and amped that I’m able to do what I love,” McCall said.
Even before the fight, McCall felt he was the best flyweight on the planet. The win over da Silva simply solidified it.
“Yeah, I feel like I’m number one, even though Sherdog ranked me #3 in the world,” he said. “But it’s one of the farthest things in my mind right now. Once I have a title, maybe I’ll worry about it.
“The two guys who are ahead of me are the Shooto champ [Yasuhiro Urushitani] and Mamoru Yamaguchi, and [Yamaguchi] is one of my favorite fighters in the world. I love watching that guy fight. He puts you in a phone booth and beats the piss out of you.”
McCall added, “There’s nothing at our weight right now that says to everybody that you’re the best guy in the world.”
With the Tachi Palace Fights flyweight division continuing to grow, McCall won’t have a lack have a hard time finding a challenge.
At the time of this interview, a fight between McCall and new Tachi Palace Fights champion Darrell Montague was under consideration. However, ProMMAnow.com recently reported that McCall will face top Strikeforce prospect Dustin Ortiz on May 6. That same card will also feature a bout between top ten flyweights Yamaguchi and John Dodson.
“I’m super excited,” McCall said of the TPF flyweight division. “I think now, or maybe by summer time, people will realize that all the best guys in the world at 125 are there, are headed there, or should be there.”
The Ultimate Fighter tryouts
The UFC recently announced that tryouts for the fourteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter would include bantamweights and featherweights. With the opportunity for television exposure looming, McCall plans to tryout for the show and get a spot in the Octagon’s 135-pound class until the UFC finally unveils a 125 division.
“Let’s hope that you guys get to see my face on TV soon,” McCall said.
Getting a spot on TUF isn’t exclusively about talent. Naturally, the show’s producers also look for fighters with a little personality that can add some humor or various shenanigans.
That being the case, McCall probably has a good chance. If you want proof, look no further than the story of how he ended up with his nickname announced at the da Silva fight, “Uncle Creepy.”
“A friend of mine is a bartender in Las Vegas, so he bartends all hours of the night. His son, the cutest, nicest kid ever, two or three years old, he’s on his dad’s time, so he stays up until 5 in the morning.
“We were at Antonio Banuelos’s house. I was sober, but everyone was out partying and they were trying to tire him out so he would go to sleep. He walks up to me with a skateboard in his hand and he said to me, ‘Uncle Creepy! Uncle Creepy! Stakeboard!’ Everyone kind of snapped out of their drunken, passing out stage and they’re like, ‘Yes, we heard that.’”