Molly McCann: The Early Years
It is a long road to get to the glitz, the glamour and the bright lights of the UFC. Every fighter has a different journey, a different tale to tell.
Many of those fighters start out in a totally different sport before by whatever means their lives are led to the brutal unforgiving world of MMA.
UFC flyweight Molly McCann has seen her life transition from one sport to another, a life of resilience, survival and evolving. Injury prematurely ended her football career, frustration with the system and a lack of options saw her promising boxing career end just as it was getting started.
“I boxed for the Golden Gloves, won an ABA title in 2009. I only boxed twice after because I got into university. I couldn’t go to the Olympics in 2012 because they didn’t have my weight category in it. So I thought if I can’t go the Olympics what’s the point. I went to university for three years and started doing MMA while I was there.
“I went from boxing and playing football professionally when I was 16 through to when I was 20 and then stopped. I went on a mad tare when I was at university, doing the club scene for nearly 3 years and then I got my head in the right place.”
After one of those nights out, McCann came home, switched on her TV and witnessed one of the most important events in MMA history. Ronda Rousey was about to make history with Liz Carmouche, the first-ever women’s fight in the UFC. A pivotal moment for the sport and indeed for McCann herself. Inspired by what she saw, McCann soon after started the first tentative steps to a life that would define her, but it was hardly love at first sight:
“I just remember going in, learning an armbar, then we rolled and I just hated it, hated everything about it. I remember being freezing cold because there was no heating in the gym, very crisp, a ring of coldness. It was in deep winter and you could see everyone’s breath in the air. I just didn’t understand what I was looking at. But then I stopped going to university and started going in every morning to roll and do the pro classes. It was a grappling heavy gym, so I could punch their heads in, but they could just take me down and batter me on the ground.
“I remember rolling with Paddy Pimblett when he was about 17, he was a bantamweight then so we were about the same weight. Paddy gave me the worst dead leg I ever had, and he said never isolate one part of your body, otherwise, I will just submit you.”
Even in those embryonic stages of her new way of life, the dedication and her willingness to learn was evident:
“In those days I would literally just train and go home. Then Ellis Hampson and I would be constantly messaging each other just talking about training non-stop. I never stopped asking him questions, he was the one I looked up to.
“I respect him more than anyone else, even though he is younger than me. There is just something about him. He gave most of himself to Paddy, he’s his main training partner. I think Ellis gave most of his best rounds in training to Paddy and Chris Fishgold, he left the glory to others. Ellis retired so he could give all of him to us. I promised him I would get him another world title.”
Fighters are a different breed to the rest of us, a life mere mortals can never really comprehend:
“Imagine working 11 to 7 on nights, then you have the first training session at 10:30 in the morning, then you are back in at 5, and that’s on days you haven’t got to go in for lectures. I’ve never had money, even last year when I had 3 fights in the UFC I still made less than middle-class money, just a working-class wage. I just got taxed to high heaven in America twice. The last fight in Boston even before I saw any money I had lost 60% of it. Having money is something I have never aspired for, when you haven’t known anything different you don’t care. I’ve never been rich, never been around money. I can wake up have a coffee, have 3 meals on my plate, I can feed my dog, take Paige or the family out for a nice meal, that’s a good life for me, I’m just enjoying every day. From the age of 18 to when I was about 27 I was living on £60 a week. When UFC London got cancelled, and I didn’t know if I was going to be paid or not, I was panicking a bit because I didn’t know when I was going to fight again. I’d just paid all my taxes and I thought this is the fight where all the money is going to be mine, and then the fight gets cancelled. But then I can remember saying to my mum, I’ve lived on a £60 a week it doesn’t matter.
“I’ve never taken a day in my life for granted because of the adversities I have seen, the tragic losses we have had in my family and stuff like that. I live every day for the gym, you ask any person that every MMA event I go to, big or small I am the happiest person there because I am such a fan. When I get to see my teammates fight who have been putting all this work in I am so thankful that we get to see it all come together and they get their moment. Then you get to see how happy their families are, I just think I am so lucky to be living this life every single day of my life.”
McCann has had well-documented problems with anxiety and depression. You never really truly defeat those kinds of issues, it’s a day by day battle to defeat an opponent you can’t see or fully understand. But McCann has opened up on her issues in the past, and she is very much winning her own personal battle, but the lockdown has still presented a new set of issues to overcome:
“I try not to show myself as sad even when I am sad. There are days when I have really struggled, it hit me a few days before I turned 30, I just thought what if I don’t fight again for a whole year. I just thought that’s a whole year lost of my development, I have worked so hard to get to this point. I literally sacrificed 4 months of my life for London and then it is just taken from you. Then I just thought stop looking at it like that, change your perception, cut the anxiety, the depression and the negative feelings at the root and kill it off now.”
McCann has a close-knit circle around her, and it is that circle that motivates her as she pushes on to the most crucial stage of her MMA career:
“Family honour, my click, my true friendship group, my family, I just want to be the best person I can to provide for them. If every day you don’t get up to try and be a better person then you are just wasting life.”
There are many fake people in this world, Molly McCann isn’t one of them.