Eric Spicely entered the UFC four years ago with an 8-0 record, all with top regional promotion CES. He got tapped in his big show debut by Sam Alvey, but bounced back by tapping Thiago Santos and Alessio Di Chirico, both in the first.
He then lost three in a row inside the distance, and was released. Spicely returned to CES and racked up two Round 1 TKOs, and was re-signed by the UFC. His first fight back was vs. Deron Winn at UFC on ESPN+ 12 on June 22, 2019. It was the Fight of the Night, but Spicely lost a Unanimous Decision and suffered a serious concussion in the process.
Over a year later, Spicely returned at Saturday’s UFC on ESPN+ 31 vs. Markus Perez, but was hospitalized during his weight cut, and was forced to withdraw.
“I’ve struggled with depression my entire life, so getting punched in the head is only going to make that worse,” he said. “It’s not like it’s just from this or it came out of nowhere. I think you’d find 95 percent of fighters – maybe that’s a high number – or 75 percent of fighters are struggling with the same thing.”
“I think for most people, it’s a dirty secret, and even for me, I probably should have started taking them a long time ago, but I didn’t want to admit to myself there was an issue, or I was embarrassed. The response that I’ve gotten is just so overwhelming and positive, and even when I started them and I told my coaches and friends, it was like, ‘Yeah, OK, it’s normal.’ A million people are going through the same thing.”
“Once I started the medication, everyone saw a complete change in me and my attitude and my emotions. I feel so much better.”
Spicely is now training at Tristar in Montreal, but his coaching team were unable to attend due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Tom Lawlor stepped into corner him, and a Lockhart and Leith weight-cutting specialist was secured to help with the cut. But Spicely showed up for fight week 20 pounds heavy, and was in his hotel room hitting a mattress propped up against a wall.
“I made weight on six days’ notice last time, so I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem making weight,” he said.
At one point, Spicely had gone up to 220, stopped taking his medication, and dropped to 215. His manager Daniel Rubenstein negotiated a 195 catchweight. 26 hours before weigh-ins, Spicely blacked out multiple times. He hit 210 after sweating out in a bath, but developed panic attacks, so switched to a portable sauna. After two hours in the sauna, he was 209, and felt like he was dying. He may have been.
20 minutes later he blacked out again. The UFC’s doctor recommended against any further cuts, and Rubenstein called it.
Spicely is supportive of his manager and the MD, and apologized to matchmaker Mick Maynard. Upon his arrival in Montreal, he learned he had been cut.
“I don’t think that I’m being treated unfairly,” said Spicely. “It’s a bummer, but it’s the way the cookie crumbles. It’s unfortunate. I haven’t fought in one year, I haven’t made money. I was supposed to fight in March, but the coronavirus happened and the fight got canceled, and they said they’d rebook me soon. This is the first fight they’ve rebooked me, and it’s been a hard one, for sure.”
“I literally have no money in my bank account, so I have to figure out how I’m going to work, and I can’t work in Canada because I’m not a citizen. But this is where I train, so it’s going to be interesting.”
“I have no regrets. I didn’t s*** talk the UFC. I understand what’s going on. I didn’t fulfill my contractual duties, and I can only go forward from here and be positive.”