Jared Gordon has some advice for all the fighters in the UFC who are living selfishly and thinking only about their careers: You’re doing it wrong.
Gordon, a UFC featherweight, wants much more from his future than just accomplishments in mixed martial arts. He has a story to tell and people he wants to help. Gordon has overdosed on heroin three times and gone to rehab 10 times. He’s lucky to be alive. And he’s hoping to achieve notoriety in the UFC, so he can deliver his message of hope to people who are struggling with addiction.
“I want to fight and make a living and yeah, fame is great and money, obviously you need money,” Gordon told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “I want to become champion, that’s a goal of mine, obviously. If you don’t want to become champion and you’re in the sport, you’re probably not gonna make it far.
“That’s what I want to do in the short term, but what I really want to do is do that so I can get the message out.”
Gordon, 29, has won his first two UFC fights and will meet Carlos Diego Ferreira at UFC Austin on Feb. 18. For the Long Island, N.Y., native, that’s just another step on a greater path.
Gordon just celebrated two years of being sober on Dec. 27. On that date in 2015, he woke up in a hospital after being unconscious for about two days. Gordon said he overdosed inside a motel room across from the Queensbridge Houses projects in Queens. Had someone in an adjacent room not heard him fall over and called the front desk, Gordon knows what would have happened.
“I die in a sleazy motel in the Queensbridge projects,” Gordon said.
When he left the hospital days later, Gordon said he went to his parents’ home in nearby Astoria. They told him he could have clothes, but he couldn’t stay there. It was his third overdose and his parents didn’t know where he was for two weeks, he said. Gordon said he had been shooting cocaine and heroin for five straight days.
He knew he had ruined their holidays — and the last few years of their lives. When he saw the looks on his parents’ faces, Gordon said he made the choice to stop using drugs. He would check himself into rehab again and this time he wouldn’t relapse.
“At that point, it was just black and white to me,” Gordon said. “I was either gonna keep getting high and die or go to prison or I was gonna live a normal life and get healthy and better.”
At that point, Gordon was already 9-1 in MMA, all while using drugs. When he was training at the Blackzilians gym in Florida, detectives came to arrest him after he allegedly broke into the house of a drug dealer and stole money. It was an endless cycle of drugs, criminal behavior and doing things that even then he knew was beneath him, including panhandling on the streets of New York City.
“It’s belittling, man, when people are giving you dirty looks,” Gordon said. “I’m like a Jewish kid from Long Island. You can’t look at me like that. I had some entitlement.”
That’s just it, too. Gordon said he didn’t have to fall into the life he was leading. He grew up in an affluent suburb of Long Island. But there were a few catalysts that set him off, including being raped by a man at a sleep away camp when he was 9 years old and the after effects of his father’s building burning down when he was 12.
“I didn’t come from the projects,” Gordon said. “I was born with a silver-spoon in my mouth. I’m grateful for that. I’m really lucky. I just chose to go down this road. So I guess it’s a little different, where people that are less fortunate kind of have no option, I guess you could say. I had plenty of options and plenty of sources. I could have got all the help that I wanted. I just chose to be — I wouldn’t say a bad person — but I just chose to do wrong things.”
Gordon wants to make it clear now that there is no stereotype of people who fall into tough times like he did. Gordon’s older brother was also a heroin addict, but has now been sober for seven years, he said.
At one point, Gordon said MMA is what kept him clean. But he was using while training. Gordon said his coach Jason Strout pulled him out of a regional fight because he saw track marks on his arms while he was cutting weight. Gordon said he had been shooting up just hours earlier.
Now clean, Gordon said he’s hoping to use MMA as a vehicle to get his words out there to as many people as possible. One can only fight in a cage for so long. There’s more afterward, he said.
“That’s all gonna end eventually and I want to use fighting as a platform to reach other people,” Gordon said. “I have this talent, I’m good at fighting. I might as well use it to make a name for myself, so I can get my word out, get my message out and show other people that there’s hope. If I can do it, anyone can do it.”
Gordon said he’s terrified on a regular basis of using again. He knows getting high will make him feel great, but said he was also “disgusted” by the thought of that feeling. It’s a constant battle, but he has not lost sight of his current path. And that’s being an inspiration to others.
“The only way I’m gonna stay sober is if I keep helping other people, because if I take and take and take — and I never give back — then I’m gonna lose what I have eventually,” Gordon said. “In order to keep what I have, I have to give it away.”