In 1994, Duff McKagan was fi ghting for his life when he was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, a condition he developed due to his excessive alcohol consumption during his tenure in Guns ‘N Roses. After spending weeks recovering at Northwest Hospital in Seattle, the bassist returned home desperate to maintain a healthy lifestyle. With the help and guidance of legendary kickboxing champion Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, McKagan accomplished just that, and the only fi ghting he does nowadays is in a ring.
Although McKagan, a weekly fi nancial columnist for Playboy.com, tours quite frequently with his comrades in Velvet Revolver and Loaded, he still makes time to practice his art at F.I.T. in Sherman Oaks, Calif. All he has to watch out for are sucker punches from 60-year-old men.
What was your initial introduction into training mixed martial arts?
Somebody introduced me to Benny “The Jet” [Urquidez], and he sort of took me on as a project. He treated me as a new student and no different. [He] tore me down and built me up slowly. The fi rst year with him I was doing two-a-days with him, and it changed my whole way of thinking. Within 6 months, I was able to start getting into the ring [and] fi ghting guys who were getting ready for fi ghts, [like] pro fi ghters. I became a sparring partner, and I’d get my ass kicked. But I learned my defense and not to be afraid in the ring, and to deal with my emotions and opponents in the ring. Some guy might have gotten into a fi ght with his wife or is a thug from a gang, so you’re dealing with their emotions and their mind-set.
Is there anyone notable that you’ve sparred with?
I was able to fi ght Peter Cunningham. I remember the fi rst time I sparred with Petey. We got done in three rounds, and Pete is kinda cocky. He said, “You tell your friends that you were in the ring with Peter Cunningham and you lasted three rounds.” I didn’t. But I’ll tell you now (laughs).
Do you still spar?
Yeah. I like it a lot, maybe too much because of my injuries. I [feel like] a 15-year-old kid. I don’t think that’ll ever change, but I learned to take it easy a little bit. Hey, a 60-year-old man broke my nose last year. Crushed it. He’s a really good fi ghter, obviously.
Damn, Duff. How could you let that happen?
It was a lucky punch. No, the guy was very good. But compared to him, I’m a young whippersnapper. I just turned 45, but I don’t remember 10 years of my life. Whenever I have a birthday, it confuses my body. I turned 45 and I was like, “Oh, shit. My dad was 45. I’m going into those years!”
At least you’ll feel 10 years younger when you get the senior citizen discount. Have you thought about competing professionally?
No. I don’t do it because I got to pay the rent, and that’s the difference between a guy like me and a guy who does it for a living. That’s a whole other level. I can compete with them, but there is just that little bit of a difference when they do it for a living. They’ve got to win that fi ght, or if they lose too many fi ghts they’re not gonna get any more fi ghts or put food on the table. It’s a brutal way to make a living, for sure.
Since you tour all over the globe, have you ever had to defend yourself at a concert?
I was in Australia, and some kid – I call everybody a kid. If you’re a 6-year-old, I’ll call you a kid. If you can knock me out at 60 years old, you’re a kid. But a guy jumps on me out of nowhere. I was back behind a venue walking into a gig, and some dude jumped off a high stone barrier, jumped onto my back, and all I felt was a threat. I turned, elbowed him to the nose, and knocked him out. It was just instantaneous [from] the training I’ve done. But I don’t really like talking about this stuff because you’ll have some wiseass be like, “Oh, yeah? Then do it to me, then.”