"I’ve made a lot of mistakes," Drew Fickett says of his 13-year career as a professional fighter. "I mean, a lot."
He’s done more damage to his own body and his own career than anyone else ever could, and he knows it. But at 32 years old and with nearly 60 pro fights to his credit, what he doesn’t know is whether there’s still time to be great again.
"I said this before and I still believe it now: a motivated Drew Fickett, training with the right camp and the right people around him, can be a world champion," says former manager Bryan Hamper. "He has some of the most raw talent in the sport of MMA."
"I was kind of like Clay Guida, if Clay Guida took PCP," Ficket says of his teenage years. "I didn’t have a girlfriend in high school, didn’t drink, didn’t do anything like that. I just lived, ate, and breathed wrestling and karate."
Once he started drinking, he did it with the same extreme intensity that he did everything else. He drank between fights. He drank in the days leading up to them.
In July of 2004, UFC president Dana White came to scout Fickett for an upcoming reality TV show that the organization was putting together. At a small event in Revere, Mass., Fickett fought and beat an inexperienced local kid by the name of Kenny Florian, and it looked like he was a lock for the new show.
"While they were filming the show, I was sitting in jail like an idiot," says Fickett. "Kenny Florian and Diego and Chris Leben got the good road. I got to go to jail for a couple months."
"Every problem I ever had was because of drinking," Fickett says now. "I’ve always had a problem with drinking. I’ve always had a problem with taking everything to the extreme."
If you want to know what Fickett’s capable of, all you have to do is look at the September 10, 2010 Shine Fights Lightweight Grand Prix -- a one-night, eight-man tournament with a $50,000 grand prize.
At the time, Fickett had just one win in his last six fights. He’d been knocked out four times in eight months.
Three straight fights, three straight wins via choke, in a combined eight-and-a-half minutes in the ring, beating fighters like Dennis Bermudez and Carlo Prater, both of whom would find their way into the UFC shortly thereafter.
Fickett would one more fight after that -- a quick armbar win over Matt Veach in which he admits he "kind of got lucky" -- and then lost his next four in a row.
"It’s not about the money, it’s about being a good, consistent person," Fickett says. "I thought, put that money in front of me and that’s it. I can get my life back. But it’s not about the money. I realized that. I think I’m ready for that now."
These days you can find Fickett in Florida, training with ATT and seeking treatment for alcoholism at an outpatient rehab center. He’s been sober for roughly four weeks now, according to Jason Chambers, his longtime friend and current manager, who says Ficket needed "a come-to-Jesus moment."
"I think that’s what happened here a couple weeks ago," Chambers says. "He looks back on that now and realizes, this is a situation he needs to address in his life... I think he will get back in the UFC if he gets his life together and he stays the course... He’s in a really good place in his life right now... We’ve led this horse to water."
"As long as I go out there and give it my best, and as long as I don’t lose because of some vice or some excuse or some failure of my soul, I’m golden," Fickett says.
"I’m not proud of the mistakes I’ve made, but I’m happy for them," Fickett says. "I’ve learned so much from them, and I think I learned more even than some of the fighters who are at the top, all because of those mistakes. I can do this, man. I know I can."