But while out of action, he managed to find a way to get his frame of mind reinvigorated for what he needs to be doing, one day at a time.
For the 26-year-old, who doesn't shy away from talking about his past as a heroin addict if it's brought up, a potentially frustrating and lengthy layoff – thanks to a bad knee and a busted-up hand – turned into an affirmation of his mindset.
"Having some time off, I got to rethink – and I never questioned the reason I was fighting," McGee said Thursday after a short workout at the New Orleans Athletic Club. "No. 1, I do it to carry the message. No. 2, I do it because the payout means I can better take care of my family – my wife, my two sons, my training partners, my team. And No. 3, because I love competition."
For McGee, that message is to help make a difference for someone who might be venturing down the path he found himself on more than five years ago. "Whatever changed in me made a difference," he said. "If I can do this for someone else and make a difference, that's a big deal."
McGee (13-1, 2-0 UFC) fights Dong Yi Yang (10-1, 1-1 UFC) in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 25 on Saturday in New Orleans, the promotion's first trip back to "The Big Easy" since UFC 27.
The Season 11 winner of "The Ultimate Fighter" had built up some nice momentum in his first two UFC middleweight bouts – both submission victories. He tapped Kris McCray to win the TUF 11 title, then submitted Ryan Jensen at UFC 121 last October.
But despite his generally positive outlook on everything, McGee said the injury did have him down when it happened – but just for a couple days, and then just sporadically when he was reminded that he could be in a training camp instead of watching with his hand in a cast after a training injury on the heels of a knee injury.
"The frustration (came from) putting in over 4,000 hours to get where I was at," McGee said. "I won at UFC 121, I'm in the UFC, and now it's time to come in and prepare and focus and really pursue greatness, and to have the injury it was just like ... man. All I can control is healing my hand, healing my knee and making sure I'm there for my wife and sons, and I'm there for my teammates and coaches. So that's what I do. That's part of my job – a place of maximum usefulness and service to others. That's my job. My career is an MMA fighter."
Against Yang, who has nine of his 10 wins by knockout, McGee said the that though on paper it would appear he would want to take the fight to the ground, the challenge of mixed martial arts is never knowing just what's going to happen.
"I love being in the fight," McGee said. "I love taking 15 minutes and figuring out how to beat somebody. He's a bigger, quite possibly stronger opponent. So I'm going to have to overcome that and figure out how to beat him, and that's exactly what I'm going to do."
And that is perhaps what keeps McGee the most grounded. He's not throwing around lofty goals of winning titles. He's not saying he wants to fight Anderson Silva. All he said he's trying to think about is what's next – even if what's next isn't the fight, or making weight. Even if what's next is just talking to three reporters.
"I take this one day at a time," McGee said. "I don't look at a destination, I don't look at the championship. Of course the goal is to be the world champion, but it's not a realistic goal today. My goal today is to stay focused, relaxed, be in this interview and give you guys 100 percent of my attention."