Dan Ige reveals how he dealt with a bout of depression following his last UFC win
Dan Ige had just won his second straight fight and he was on the verge of inking a new multi-fight contract with the UFC but there was an overwhelming feeling creeping into his head during what should have been one of the happiest moments during his fight career.
He didn’t want to be there.
In the aftermath of his last victory over Jordan Griffin this past December, Ige admitted that in the hours leading up to the fight he just didn’t feel the typical excitement that usually surges through his body as he prepares to make that walk to the cage.
Instead he was physically and mentally exhausted leading into a fight where his opponent wasn’t going to take it easy on him just because he wasn’t feeling up to it.
“I was really confident going into the fight. Confident in my training, I put in the work but to be honest after my fight when I said I really didn’t feel like fighting that day, it’s true,” Ige revealed when speaking to MMAWeekly. “I was really drained and overwhelmed, especially with everything I do working my full time job, fighting and the whole aftermath after [UFC] 229 with Khabib [Nurmagomedov] and everything kind of wore on me.
“It all led into fight week. Even though fight week was an easy week and my weight cut was easy, I was kind of emotionally, physically, mentally, I was drained going into that fight. I wasn’t excited.”
In addition to his role as a UFC featherweight, Ige also holds down a full time job as a manager at Dominance MMA where he works alongside Ali Abdelaziz with one of the most expansive rosters of athletes in the sport.
Beyond his own fights, Ige is a regular fixture at most major UFC events because he’s flanking athletes like lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov or new welterweight king Kamaru Usman.
It’s a job he takes very seriously and one he loves very much but his two worlds were beginning to collide so often that he was getting worn down to a nub.
“I went back to Hawaii [after the fight] and I honestly contemplated what am I doing?” Ige admitted. “I wanted to feel bad for myself like look at all these other athletes, they are full time fighters, they don’t work full time jobs and in a way, I don’t know if it was a jealousy thing or maybe envious, I don’t know what it was but I just wanted to be that. I went back home.
“I got real emotional. I got depressed. I wasn’t happy even though I won.”
With everything weighing down on him, Ige made a call to Abdelaziz and let him know what was happening.
Through the conversation, Ige remembered why he enjoyed his day job away from fighting so much because it not only afforded him a constant stream of revenue but also because he loved the people he was working with everyday.
“I was at home but I was still working and I called Ali and I told him everything and Ali, I love that guy, and he feels the same way and he said ‘if we need to do something to make this work, we will’,” Ige said.
“We brought in some more people to help. I was taking on a lot of loads. I’m working in this company like I’m an owner and it’s just extremely stressful.”
Ige says after that conversation he was able to continue working his duties as a manager but also get more free time that would allow him to focus on his career as a UFC fighter.
“We figured out what was the problem and how we could use the other team members to make my job easier because I am fighting in the top organization in the world and I’m trying to work my way up the ladder,” Ige explained. “I also want to keep a good relationship with everyone and just keep the fire going.
“I realized I’m not in a bad place. What I’m doing right now, especially with work, we got it all figured out. I can be a full time fighter, I can still work with Dominance MMA and still focus on growing. I got to a point where I felt like I wasn’t growing and I was just going through the motions. Now I’m in a really good place. I’m happy and everything’s good.”
Obviously, Ige isn’t the first fighter to hold down a day job on top of being a UFC fighter but what it really came down to was striking the right kind of balance between work and life so he was no longer feeling so overwhelmed.
When he finally found that perfect fit, Ige admits it was like a weight being lifted off his chest.
“It’s a balance. I was doing too much of everything,” Ige said. “It got emotional but everything is good now. I found that balance. Now people really got to watch out.
“I feel like my last eight pro fights, I had a weight vest on. Now I took the weight vest off so people have to watch out.”
This weekend, Ige will face Danny Henry in a featherweight contest at UFC Fight Night from London, England and the emotion he’s feeling now versus his last outing are like night and day.
In fact, Ige says the moment he got the call about fighting again, he was already bursting with excitement to get back in the cage again.
“I think it was a seven week notice, I just got crazy, I was so excited,” Ige revealed. “The excitement level is amplified. I’m pumped up to go there. I can’t even put into words.”