On June 12, 2021, Terrance McKinney stepped into the cage to make his debut on the world’s biggest fighting stage, the UFC.
Seven seconds later, the fight was over.
A swift 1-2 combination from the newcomer left his opponent unconscious, and fight fans worldwide buzzing. It was the fastest knockout in UFC lightweight history, and earned McKinney instant recognition as one of the sport’s fastest rising stars.
To the outsider, McKinney, a Spokane native, seemed like a star making his coming out party, a man long destined for greatness.
But according to McKinney, there was a time not long ago when that life — and life itself — were far from a guarantee.
Seven years earlier, McKinney was the one lying unconscious, not the victim of a punch in the Octagon, but of a life of drug abuse and addiction — a life that should have led to his demise.
In 2014, McKinney, already struggling with drug addiction, went through an experience that changed him forever. After a night of drinking, Mckinney overdosed on drugs and fell out of a window, a horrific experience that he recalled in a conversation with The Daily Wire.
“I’m already drinking, I end up taking acid and shrooms, and I’m tripping hard, and these demons come out of nowhere, and I’m trying to pray and I’m speaking a whole different language. So I started praying in my head and then I stood up and I said ‘I’m not afraid of you guys,’ and tried to walk, and then, my whole body shut down.”
It was at that moment that McKinney said he felt helpless as he tumbled to the ground.
“I had to watch myself fall through a window. There was nothing I could do, my whole body just shut down, I fell forward into the window, I couldn’t stop it.”
McKinney was knocked unconscious by the fall and awoke to find himself “gushing blood,” with police attempting to help him. “We’ve gotta get a medic for you, alright. Nobody wants to hurt you,” first responders can be heard saying in disturbing bodycam footage of the incident.
But in his drug-induced state, Mckinney became frantic and began trying to fight the officers responding to the scene. After tasing him multiple times, police were able to subdue McKinney and load him into an ambulance, strapped down to a gurney.
Then, McKinney’s heart stopped.
After paramedics worked frantically to revive him, it stopped again.
Though he doesn’t remember dying — or fighting the police officers — Mckinney says he does remember waking up in the hospital, handcuffed to his bed, thinking that while he had survived, his life was still essentially over. “I injured four cops and thought it was over. Thought I was going to get four or five years in jail.”
Instead, McKinney was left with 240 hours of community service and the wakeup call of a lifetime.
“I had to really think about what I was doing. People think this stuff is fun right now, but what happens if you’re dead? If I died that day, would I have been happy with what I accomplished? I don’t want to be that person to die. I don’t want to be that person that died because of drugs. That’s not the legacy I want to leave. That just humbled me and made me get right.”
From there, McKinney committed himself to recovery, even going back a year later to meet with the police who he’d fought, apologizing in person and thanking them for “giving me a second chance at life.”
Though it was a long road to redemption, McKinney credits his relationship with his mother and with God for bringing him through the adversity.
“God brought peace for me. There were times I was in dark places and He brought me through it.”
Of his mother, McKinney says she was “the one who guided me. She was my best friend, my leader. She always held me accountable … she was just that person to keep me in a straight line when I was going off the road or was on the wrong path.”
Looking back, McKinney now sees all too well the anguish he caused his greatest earthly role model, and now, he uses it for motivation.
“I just wanna make my mom proud. I did things to my mom’s heart that put her through a lot of stress and trauma. She already went through so much growing up, so I feel like I owe this to her. I owe this to my family, I gotta right that wrong.”
Now, McKinney, ahead of his Feb. 26th fight against Fares Ziam, has a new perspective.
Far from viewing himself as a professional fighter and nothing more, McKinney wants to be an example for those who’ve also been saddled by addiction. “It’s not about just being a UFC champ and fighting. I’m here to help people heal. Not just through me fighting, but through my work. Not just on the mat, but outside. Talking to the people who feel lost and alone. All it takes is just one person to reach out and show that you care.”
His struggle has brought purpose. “People will talk to me about their story. I just know, this is what God called me to do, who He called me to be. There’s a bigger picture for this.”
And he has advice for those still struggling. “Trust your support team and don’t think about yourself. At the end of the day, take a deep look at your family, they’re sad, they’re wanting what’s best for you. Let that sit on your heart, use it as fuel to get better.”
“Just remember, it’s never too late to right your wrongs.”