Five MMA Fighters Who Beat Addiction

Addiction can make the toughest S.O.B. as powerless as this guy. While many MMA fighters have had their lives and careers derailed by drugs and alcohol, some were strong enough to find treatment and pull their lives out of the tailspin. Here’s our tribute to five of them…


Drug of choice: methamphetamines
Rock bottom moment: Wandering around the streets looking for a place to sleep after he had burned his bridges with everybody in his life. When he landed in the Washington State Penitentiary for 18 months for drug-related felonies after six years of shooting meth, nobody in his family came to visit him.
Recovery: While in the joint, Beerbohm began watching The Ultimate Fighter and became inspired to fight for a living; he’d already had to physically defend himself in prison a few times. “Fancy Pants” joined an MMA gym the day he got out, and won his first amateur fight eight days later. Beerbohm is currently 16-0 as a pro, and will take on Pat Healy in the main event of Strikeforce Challengers 14 next month.



Drug of choice: Alcohol, cocaine, heroin, meth, etc.
Rock bottom moment: McGee began abusing drugs after falling in with the wrong crowd after high school, and was once pronounced dead following a heroin overdose. In 2006, McGee had managed to stay sober for five months. In order to test his willpower, he took a trip to Las Vegas and decided to order just one drink. He woke up four days later in Iowa, not wearing any pants.
Recovery: McGee has been sober since April 16, 2006, two weeks after the Vegas/Iowa incident. He began training in MMA and rebuilding relationships with his family, which helped restore order to his life. “Crusher” came out of nowhere to win TUF 11 last June, and submitted Ryan Jensen in his follow-up fight at UFC 121. 

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Drug of choice: cocaine
Rock bottom moment: “Ricco was driving with his girlfriend, high, when he slammed into an 18-wheeler then smashed into a wall. With his license already supended for a DUI, he dragged the body of his girlfriend — who he thought was dead — and put her in the driver’s seat. The cops came and fell for the switcheroo; the girlfriend, however, turned out to be alive.” Rodriguez’s drug problems also resulted in a six-month CSAC suspension in 2006, an arrest for a domestic squabble with the aforementioned girlfriend, and their son being taken away by child protective services. But seriously, that car accident thing takes the cake.
Recovery: Rodriguez’s stint on Celebrity Rehab was the beginning of a successful recovery and gradual career comeback. The former UFC heavyweight champ has won his last ten fights, is whittling down to light-heavyweight, and there are even rumors of him getting back into the UFC.


Drug of choice: heroin and alcohol
Rock bottom moment: Like Court McGee, Brown was clinically dead after a heroin overdose. As he said later, “[Overdosing] was one of the best things to happen to me. When that happened it woke me up and I was like, ‘Man, I got to do something.'”
Recovery: Brown has been sober (dip doesn’t count) ever since. Watching a Wanderlei Silva fight on TV inspired “The Immortal” to try MMA for himself. He worked odd jobs to support his MMA training, which eventually paid off when he was selected as a TUF 7 castmember. Brown has lost his last three fights in the Octagon, but he’s getting one last chance against Matt Riddle at UFC on Versus 3 in March.

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Drug of choice: prescription painkillers
Rock bottom moment: Irvin was suspended from the UFC for nine months after pissing hot for methadone and oxymorphone following his ugly loss to Anderson Silva in July 2008. “I needed to get caught,” Irvin told the Canadian Press. “I needed to get in trouble for it and wake me up and get off of those things.” Irvin’s parents both struggled with addiction, but the Sandman claims he never touched a drug until he arrived in the UFC.
Recovery: It hasn’t been easy. Irvin has gone 1-3 in the cage since returning from his suspension. But he remains committed to his sobriety. “If I have an injury bad enough where I have to take a narcotic, then I don’t compete,” Irvin said. “I’ll never put any of those things in my body the rest of my life, again.”

Honorable Mentions

  • Evan Tanner: Successfully went cold turkey off of an alcohol addiction. Unfortunately, he may have traded booze for gambling, and his attempt at a sober life was tragically cut short after less than a year.
  • Aaron Brink: Was featured on an episode of Intervention, which showed him using meth and watching porn for up to 12 hours a day. Word is he got clean, although he hasn’t had much success in the cage since then aside from a kind-of-depressing win over Dan Quinn.
  • Matt Horwich: Claims to be a recovering drug and alcohol addict — but come on, you can’t tell me that the dude isn’t constantly high.