Phoenix MMA fighter shines in short notice UFC debut, shares journey to the octagon

McGhee's story is one of hope.
McGhee's story is one of hope.(Arizona's Family)
Published: Jun. 3, 2023 at 1:50 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - After dominating the regional MMA scene, Phoenix’s Marcus ‘Maniac’ McGhee jumped at the chance for his first UFC fight on just three days’ notice. It turned into a memorable debut and $50,000 performance bonus, his journey to the octagon is just as unlikely. “I was so hurt and confused in life, that it was hard for me to direct that,” said McGhee.

As a child, the Detroit native fought out of anger, an upbringing spent with a single mom and a father that was in jail most of his life. Moving to several different homes throughout the valley, McGhee didn’t end up with many pictures during that time, in fact only one but McGhee has always been a fighter. “We came from nothing, it was not the easiest background,” said McGhee. Skateboarding, tattoos, his wild behavior and fight style as well as the book ‘Maniac Magee’, Marcus donned the nickname ‘Maniac’ but through martial arts and the discipline it requires, the 33-year-old will tell you he approaches the fight game with balance, respect, calculated chaos and even empathy for his opponents.

“That’s how MMA has helped me control my emotions, control my mind, control my thoughts, and direct those feelings and thoughts to where I want them to be,” said McGhee. And even though ‘Maniac’ has six wild knockouts to his name in the regional scene, he was overlooked by major promotions like UFC, PFL, and Bellator. That is, until last month when UFC Bantamweight Journey Newson was looking for an opponent after his pulled out. McGhee stepped in on just three days’ notice, pushed a relentless pace and won striking exchanges and the fight by rear naked choke in the second round. His fight was so impressive that he was one of four fighters to take home a $50,000 performance win bonus. “It’s an amazing feeling, you know I accomplished everything that I wanted to accomplish,” said McGhee.

The now-UFC fighter has three fights remaining on his new deal. “I just thank God, honestly,” said McGhee. “At so many different moments, I could have taken the wrong turn, I’ve had so many opportunities to do that and for some reason, it didn’t match up with my calling.” The fighter said he is the father to his four kids that he always needed growing up. A child who used to bounce from city to city has found his permanent home at Phoenix’s MMA Lab while providing one to his wife and children. 

“It’s the most important thing to me, to make sure they have every opportunity to have a loving, caring father,” said McGhee. He also has a message to the valley’s youth who may be fighting outside the gym like he used to. “I would say believe in yourself,” said McGhee. “Do everything you want to do, be full-hearted, give everything to it, be connected to it and the sky’s the limit.” McGhee is still waiting to find out who his next fight will be in the UFC.

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