The Lockdown Interviews: Molly McCann
At the start of March, the world was very different from what it would be only a few weeks later. Governments were still dithering over the ‘invisible’ enemy everyone could plainly see, warnings were ignored, the world carried on. Ignorance and stupidity has cost so many.
As we entered the third month of the year, Molly McCann was winding down her preparation for UFC London. Ashlee Evans-Smith was the supposed next victim, but less than a week out the entire show was cancelled.
It seems almost inevitable that McCann has to overcome some hurdle in her life. Nothing has ever come easy, everything earned nothing given. But the obvious disappointment hasn’t stopped the daily grind of training:
“I have gone to back to the style of training that got me to the top. More like fitness-based, less coached, I don’t need someone to clap and tell me to train like a beast. I think during the lockdown, nobody has trained like Terri Harper and me, maybe Leah McCourt as well.”
The lack of a conventual structured training camp holds no fears for McCann:
“When you were not allowed in the gym as I was when I first started out, and you didn’t have access to sparring partners, you get used to that kind of mentality. My sparring isn’t to go and knock each other out, it is working on a specific technique and not receive any damage back. I only spar in fight camp, not outside of it, I don’t believe in it. You need sparring rounds to get sharper and fitter and Fight Island isn’t there until June, so it could be the end of June or July before the fights potentially happen. I will be given an opponent and 6 weeks, then I can go to the Island and spar with training partners out there. You have to adapt and overcome in life, it’s never simple, never easy. I haven’t wasted the last 8 weeks of my life, I have invested in my strength and conditioning.”
Life certainly hasn’t been easy for McCann, and an inspirational text from one of her friends pretty much says everything:
‘I think you have the Tony Bellew mentality. You want to be punished and are driven by pain and adversity. The more that is stripped back from you, the more you want it. The next fight is the biggest one in your life, it’s the mortgage breaker.’
McCann views her strongest asset as ‘resilience’ and having the life she has had, overcoming tragedy, heartbreak and everything else, she is right. McCann has created her own path in life, the obligatory obstacles cleared without complaint.
But you need more to survive at the top end of any sport
“When I was a kid at school there were set 1 kids that were next level, who were a bit nerdy and geeky but were not very good at sport. But all I had at school was sport, and I was good at sport because I never gave in. The skills I had been gifted didn’t translate academically. But then kids who were better than me academically and then were better than me at sport, I used to get so pissed off, they had been gifted such an easier life. But I flipped it on its head, and I used it to give more to take me to that place that they were not willing to go.”
Many do not realise the sacrifice that a fighter makes to prepare for a fight, physically but maybe more so emotionally as well:
“When I am not in fight camp I am the best person to speak to. But when I am, it can be the opposite. It takes me to a few weeks to take me to that place, so when I fight I am in that special place, so that when I fight not many can stay with me. But it takes a lot to get there, the hours in the gym, locking yourself from your family and your relationship and all that kind of thing. I just think that’s what I do, no female that I have met can withstand the kind of adversity I can.”
Despite achieving so much in her career, it has come at a cost to her personal life:
“I was engaged once, my career came before that, and that created cracks and that ended the relationship. My current relationship with Paige, we have had to take a few breaks, because at the time her football career and my fighting career. It was too hard, too painful to only see each other once a month. We couldn’t understand and make it work. But now Paige is based back in Liverpool it is a lot easier. I have lost a lot of friendships because I don’t move the same way they move.”
With the UFC planning on being up and running with the so-called Fight Island sometime in the next month, McCann is already making tentative plans to fighting there:
“The second I’m giving the go-ahead, me and one of my training partners are just going to go out there. I’m only going to take one coach with me, Ellis, because he is the youngest and the strongest and he is the least likely to get sick, and my other coaches all have families and I wouldn’t want to risk anything happening to them.”
Even when gyms reopen and some kind of normal training begins for fighters, with the virus still going to be around it will still pose considerable problems going forward:
“I’m concerned for my nan who I live with. My uncle John is a key worker and he hasn’t stopped working all the way through it. I genuinely believe that we have had symptoms and we have had it already at the beginning of the year when everyone was going down with the flu. However, I am still doing things best practice, training the safest way I know how. If I sign a contract then that is my job and I will go to a gym on my own with one other training partner and they will isolate with me.”
The decision by the UFC to be the first major sports organisation to resume business during the ongoing pandemic has been met with fierce criticism by some sections of the MMA media, and that has not gone unnoticed by McCann:
“I just think journalists should speak and present facts, and not give an opinion without all the facts. It’s very hard for me not to like someone but some journalists are aware of themselves and they are above what their job is, and I think they think they are more important than what they are. There are too many to name and shame them, and I don’t want to give them air time. But I won’t forget and I won’t do interviews with them, I am done with them.”
What you see is what you get, McCann is always honest, always open and whether you agree with her or not, her opinion comes from the heart.
The new normal of struggle and hardship is nothing new to McCann, I have said before that when she eventually releases an autobiography it should be called ‘Against All Odds’ because virtually everything she has done in her life, it has been done with her back firmly against the wall. Those struggles have made her the person she is today, and crucially for her career, the fighter she is today.
That defeat at UFC Liverpool to Gillian Robertson in May 2018 is now a thing of the past, 3 wins later and a UFC flyweight ranking of 14, shows the progress since that devastating, heart-breaking night. But McCann is targeting more, much more. She might have missed out on UFC London this year, but when the UFC returns to UK soil again, a much bigger fight may lie in wait for McCann.