My Favourite Fighter: Molly McCann
Not so long ago Liverpool was on the brink, a city seemingly without a future, without hope, under attack from the government of the day. Industry was failing, lack of investment led to riots, the natives had seen enough. Unemployment was rising, people were leaving the city in great numbers, but Liverpool rose up.
The ‘managed decline’ couldn’t get the job done, Liverpool fought back and survived.
Very much a fighting city, proud of its working-class roots, a city with soul, something different, something special.
Liverpool had its music, its jokes, it also had pride, fighting pride, you just know it loves a fight.
The city has a long history of decorated boxers, John Conteh one of the best boxers this country has ever produced was born there, in the modern-day the fighting Smith family have continued the trend.
MMA has also survived the establishment trying to destroy it, human cockfighting with no place in modern society, the political narrative said. But MMA thrived in the face of adversity and it gave a new art for the city of Liverpool to embrace.
Picking my favourite MMA fighter was difficult, honourable mentions must go to the likes of GSP, Conor McGregor and Justin Gaethje, all have given me and everybody else some truly memorable memories.
Liam McGeary the first Brit to hold a major MMA title came close, very close to topping my list. But ultimately it would be an all Liverpool final, red versus blue.
Paddy Pimblett unbelievably hasn’t yet made his way to the UFC, but his time will surely come. Pimblett has had a frustrating period of late, but is young enough and more importantly good enough to achieve great things in the sport.
But if one fighter sums up the word fighter its Molly McCann, her beloved Everton might currently be playing catch up with Pimblett’s Liverpool, but McCann takes the title of my favourite MMA fighter.
The first-ever MMA show I attended as a member of the media was Cage Warriors 90 in February last year. The Echo Arena in Liverpool played home to McCann and her bid for flyweight gold.
Pimblett had won earlier in the evening and McCann closed the show in style to lift the vacant title.
A few weeks later in London, I was there for CW92, McCann was there, not fighting this time, but enjoying life as a champion, a little too much maybe for what was about to come.
The UFC had just announced it was coming to Liverpool in May, McCann came in the media room, and gave this passionate speech about wanting to be at the party.
McCann didn’t care where she sat at the table, she just wanted a place.
The call came, but it was a case of right place wrong time.
McCann made her UFC debut on May 27th last year, ironically my wedding anniversary. A meal out with the wife had to work around McCann, we had to return in time to watch her fight with Gillian Robertson live.
The wife must feel she plays second fiddle to my love of sport. My team of choice, not that I needed one, Sheffield United often sees plans change. It’s our 20th wedding anniversary this year, the day of the play-off final, should the Blades take part in the Wembley multi-million pound game of football, another awkward conversation in the making.
She once said I’m sure you love Sheffield United more than me, my reply of I love Sheffield Wednesday more than I love you, maybe wasn’t the reply she was looking for, my strange sense of humour doesn’t often gets me into trouble.
The sight of McCann losing to Robertson made me realise something I haven’t felt since the days of Frank Bruno and Barry McGuigan, my other obsession, all those years ago, an emotional connection to a fighter.
McCann being choked unconscious, and her body doing that horrible scary twitch will never leave me, I’ve never watched it back, and I doubt I ever will.
The evolution began almost immediately, there were no excuses, no blame, just honest self-evaluation of what needed to be done. Humbled yes, but McCann had another point to prove.
The hard work paid off, even a broken orbital couldn’t deny her, history was made and McCann was up and running in the UFC.
Once the eye had healed, McCann went to America and put on a masterclass to dominate the touted Ariane Lipski in a career best performance. An almost flawless display that silenced even the most harshest of her critics. The win proved McCann is a true contender in the UFC flyweight division.
Life has thrown everything at McCann, and you can see what her achievements mean to her, as she once said: “MMA was a safe place to land.”