The Evolution of Molly McCann
They say home is where the heart is, and for Molly McCann losing her UFC debut in Liverpool in front of her own family, friends and fans in May last year you don’t have to be that imaginative to know what that loss did to her.
It was supposed to be her moment, in her city, with her family, her fans, the defeat a bitter pill to swallow, a gut wrenching defeat in every sense imaginable.
But after a period of doubting if she even belonged in the UFC, and bouts of anxiety McCann will return later this month when the UFC makes another visit to the O2 in London.
Fighters on the outside are some of the toughest people on the planet, a different breed to the rest of us. But we don’t always appreciate they are susceptible to the same type of emotions as the rest of us.
We are all in some way fragile, but for fighters to have self-doubt, it is the difference between winning and losing, staying in a job or losing one.
McCann 28, has been refreshingly open about her doubts, depression and anxiety, but to solve a problem you have to admit that there is one.
Mental illness comes in many forms, often there is no trigger point, it comes without warning, a lack of understanding from the masses doesn’t help. McCann has had a hard life, but she refuses to succumb.
The trade McCann works in you are not supposed to show weakness, not an ounce. It’s also still very much a taboo subject to talk about mental illness, but any open discussion on the subject helps, especially from people in the public eye.
McCann won the Cage Warriors flyweight title in February 2018 and by her own admission, she was living the life, enjoying her success. A call to fight in the UFC in Liverpool was a call you couldn’t turn down, but for the sake of her career, it was one perhaps she should have done.
That heartbreaking loss to Gillian Robertson hopefully will be a blessing in a disguise. McCann will return a more rounded fighter in London, an acceptance to what is needed.
The loss to Robertson despite the taste it left, left McCann with the realisation that she needed to change her game. The work her ground game needed to compete in the UFC began, on March 16th we get to see the fruits of her labour.
Her much-criticised ground game was never as bad as some made out. The 1st round with Robertson showed that she survived the round without taking too much damage on the floor. One mistake doesn’t make you a rookie, but McCann knew she needed to take her game to a new level.
The aim for McCann isn’t only to compete, it’s to challenge for the title, the evolution to do that is already well underway.
McCann has overcome plenty in her life, the death of her father left her emotionally spent. But they breed them differently in Liverpool, a city that itself has overcome so much over the years. The word tough doesn’t do it justice. A fighting city with fighting spirit, even the savage Thatcher led Tory government couldn’t kill it, a managed decline followed by a rise from the rubble.
Family and her own resolute soul saw her through the dark days, a fighter inside the cage and out.
From working nights in Subway to being inspired by seeing Ronda Rousey on her TV screen to try her hand at MMA, her rise in the sport was rapid.
A background in boxing was already there, and McCann set out on her MMA journey. A professional debut in 2015, a loss in her 2nd fight, but her success at Cage Warriors 90 in Liverpool and flyweight gold in 2018 shows what McCann is made of.
A promise to deliver a world title to her late father was well and truly delivered, motivation from the heart is a powerful tool. McCann speaks from the heart and fights the same way.
Some fighters resonate with me more than others, despite of so much Conor McGregor excites me, but I crave the realness, a working-class hero, McCann fits that perfectly.
We all need to escape from life at times, the big CGI blockbusters, but I prefer something with a bit of substance, a Ken Loach type film, a story to buy into. I want to care about what I am watching, emotionally invest in the characters.
You suspect if Loach did a MMA film or a documentary McCann would be the central character in the production. Loach is a master of telling a story of social injustice, McCann and the background of her home city you suspect would be a perfect fit for Loach.
But not every film has a happy ending, McCann is under no illusions that she needs to write her own script.
The UFC are often ruthless, time rarely given, another loss at the O2 could mean McCann looking for another home to earn a living. To maintain a seat at a table, you need to win fights, and McCann is under pressure to deliver on March 16th.
McCann knows what’s at stake, what she needs to do, don’t bet against her.
Molly McCann returns at UFC Fight Night 147 in London, where she takes on the Brazilian Priscila Cachoeira.