Jared Gordon is lucky to be alive today much less sitting 48-hours away from making his UFC debut.
The 28-year-old featherweight prospect may be fighting inside the Octagon for the first time this weekend, but Gordon has already battled through more adversity than most people face in a lifetime.
Of course, Gordon has never asked for pity because he knows most of the turmoil he's suffered through has been self-chosen. But he somehow found a way to come out on the other side, and that's what he's happiest about while preparing for his first UFC fight.
Gordon was always obsessed with mixed martial arts even during his days in high school when he first started dabbling in the drug trade. An injury early in his career ended with Gordon discovering prescription pain medication, andsoon he was hooked on Vicodin before turning that habit into an Oxycontin and Percocet addiction where he was eating pills likecandy.
Despite his addictions, Gordon still fueled his MMA passion but this all came during a haze in his career, which included overdoses and the death of his best friend from the same pills he was taking. Eventually, Gordon traveled to Florida where he hoped to jump start his fight career but that trip ended with a deadly addiction to heroin and an arrest with charges ranging from robbery to assault and prosecutors looking at putting him in jail for 25 years to life.
Gordon was able to beat those charge,s but his drug addiction was one fight that he just couldn't seem to win. His rollercoaster ride finally ended after a loss to Jeff Lentz in 2015, when he was arguably one win away from getting invited to join the UFC roster.
That night, Gordon suffered a broken orbital bone in five places and doctors prescribed him pain medication to help with the agonizing injury. Before long, Gordon's best friend was once again a bottle of pills but that gave way to the needle going back into his arm.
Then came another overdose where Gordon's life was dangling in the balance.
Gordon survived but that night served as the ultimate wake up call because he somehow managed to battle back from the brink of death yet again but eventually the Grim Reaper will always win that war.
Gordon cleaned up his life with another stint in rehab but after checking out this time, he put himself back on the path to restart his fighting career with a goal to finally get to the UFC. His first fight back 11 months after his loss and relapse into drug addiction was a night he'll never forget.
"My first fight back happened to be a title fight. It was already a lot of pressure and build up and anticipation for that fight. I trained harder than I ever have and I put more work in than I ever have so coming back it was more of an enjoyable experience," Gordon described. "I consider myself the comeback king, so I was ready to show everyone what I'm really made of and what I can do.
"I won by head-kick knockout. I think that proved to a lot of people who I am and what I'm made of. I was just happy to come back and do that."
Less than a year later, Gordon is in the UFC and about to make his debut against Michel Quinones this weekend in Oklahoma City.
Of course, Gordon knows that under different circumstances he could be dead or in jail or still attempting to satiate his addictions with pills or a needle but somehow he was able to break free of that cycle to make it to the pinnacle of mixed martial arts.
Despite all those past occurrences in his life, Gordon never looks for sympathy for what he's survived because he knows the real work to redeem himself really starts now.
"I consider myself blessed, but I also know this was a lot of hard work to get where I am from where I was. I'm just really grateful, there's no other way to put it," Gordon said.
If there's one other positive that Gordon takes away from his days suffering through drug addiction it's that he knows he can fight through anything and that's part of the reason why he has such confident going up against any opponent the UFC can throw at him.
As much as Gordon wants to celebrate his UFC debut this weekend, he's also using his first fight inside the Octagon as a launching pad to get his message out to the world that he survived and hopefully it can inspire others to do the same.
With his life and career back on track, Gordon desperately wants to work his way up the ranks and one day have UFC president Dana White wrap a title around his waist, but that accomplishment will still only serve as an even bigger spotlight so he can help people caught under the crushing wave of addiction that there is a way out.
"At the end of the day, that's my goal. I know one day I'll be champion and I want to make a living off of this and I want to have all the pleasures that fighting will bring me, but if I want to keep what I have, I have to give it away. I just want to use this platform to reach other people," Gordon said.
"I went out to the last rehab I attended and I spoke a group of 22 guys who are coming out of prison who are drug addicts. It was Father's day and I was there on Sunday night to share and to show these guys that anything is possible. There's a road out. There's a light at the end of the tunnel. So the main thing for me is to be an influence and to lead by example that you should never quit and no matter how hard your life is or what you're going through, there's always a way out."