McGee returns with healthy knee, attitude

Time on the shelf has left Court McGee a stronger man. Mike Roach/Getty Images

If you think being sidelined for 11 months due to an injured left knee is going to hinder Court McGee’s performance Saturday night (Spike TV, 9 ET) in New Orleans, think again.

McGee has been down this road before, so when he faces hard-hitting Dong Yi Yang in a middleweight bout at UFC Fight Night Live 25, expect nothing but fireworks. "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 11 champion will be his usual aggressive self.

Injuries might temporarily slow McGee, but they have never prevented him from going all out on fight night. Take his most recent fight, for example. During his bout with Ryan Jensen in October 2010, McGee fractured his right hand.

The pain was excruciating, but rather than play it cautiously, McGee increased his aggression. After a tough first round in which he was floored, McGee would go on the defeat Jensen by unanimous decision.

McGee was elated with the win, but knew his hand was in bad shape.

“I broke my second metacarpal,” McGee told ESPN.com. “After it healed, they took the pins out; I started camp and signed for a fight, in that order.”

Then déjà vu -- while training for his bout with Canadian Jesse Bondfeldt at UFC 131 in Vancouver, British Columbia, McGee injured his left knee. It was his very first sparring session and his very first offensive maneuver -- a double-leg takedown attempt. His knee gave out and McGee couldn’t believe this was happening.

At first, he refused to accept that his knee was injured. Despite pleas from training partners Jake Shields, Nick Diaz and Nate Diaz to sit this one out, McGee continued walking around the gym in hopes of loosening the knee up.

His effort didn’t work. McGee’s left knee eventually locked up on him and he had to pull out of the fight with Bondfeldt.

“I had an MRI and [the left knee] was just destroyed,” said McGee, who will take a 13-1 record into the cage against Yang. “I had four or five tears in my meniscus, and a little tear in the ACL. It was tragic.”

The same thing happened in 2008, only then it was his right knee.

“It happened prior the fight I had [against Dayle Jarvis] before I made it onto Season 11 of 'The Ultimate Fighter,’” McGee said. “It was the same thing.

“I was about to sign for a big fight. I was going to fight at light heavyweight against [Antonio Rogerio] Nogueira in Brazil. The fight would have been for more money than I’d ever made. But I did the same thing, shooting for a double-leg [in camp] and blowing my knee out. I was out for 10 months.”

McGee’s right knee would heal completely; he’d go on to beat Jarvis and later become TUF champion. His left knee is 100 percent now, and the former pro boxer envisions success Saturday night against Yang.

With a 10-1 professional MMA record, and nine knockouts under his belt, Yang is expected to come out striking aggressively. But McGee isn’t worried. He knows a thing or two about fighting on his feet. Highly skilled in karate and boxing, McGee likes his chances in this match-up, despite the long layoff.

“I haven’t lost that drive,” McGee said. “I’ve used that experience I had before [recovering from a knee injury] to help me prepare for this fight. And I have a certain level of comfort knowing that I’ve done this before. I know I can do it again as long as I have dedication, determination and perseverance. And I show up healthy.

“I am confident in my ability to compete with the best guys in the world. And I am proud that I am able to do that in the UFC."