Molly McCann: A New Beginning
In many ways, 2020 Molly McCann was a year to forget. A planned fight in March at UFC London against Ashlee Evans-Smith fell by the wayside courtesy of the pandemic that shut down the entire world. The hard work of training camp was already behind her, the late cancellation left the grind on the mats, nothing to show for the pain and sacrifice.
McCann would eventually return on Fight Island in July, but her impressive recent momentum would be stalled against an emerging new contender. Talia Santos would show the rest of her division that a new threat was on the rise. Santos would prove too much for McCann, on a frustrating night for the Liverpool fighter. Santos would further show her worth and talent against Gillian Robertson in December. Losing to Santos is no disgrace, many more look set to experience the same feeling.
McCann made no excuses, a period of reflection and change in her personal life in the months that followed before the inevitable return to the environment that has made her.
In Vegas this weekend we see a new beginning. Lara Fritzen Procopio is the latest Brazilian to test her skills against McCann. Procopio returns under a cloud, she has previously tested positive for ostarine and accepted a 6-month suspension for the USADA violation, the fight with McCann is her first fight since 2019.
McCann has been here before, a defeat on her UFC debut to Robertson in front of her hometown fans was a shattering and heart-breaking setback. There were reasons, but no excuses for the loss. But McCann recovered and evolved and three wins followed in 2019, each win showed a little bit more, and 2020 promised plenty.
The loss to Santos stopped her progress, the hard-earned UFC ranking was gone, McCann was back in the pack of the flyweight contenders. But with McCann there is always some hurdle to clear, resilience has long been her greatest asset. But equally, there is always hope, down but never out the McCann way of life.
The training camp for Santos wasn’t ideal, restrictive in many ways. The one for Vegas hasn’t been perfect, but better. England is still struggling to avoid being submitted by the pandemic, the government of dither and hypocrisy prolonging the agony of many. But McCann seems to have accepted and adapted to the latest version of restrictions. With lessons learned from the previous camp, McCann will enter Vegas a better version of the fighter we saw on Fight Island.
On Saturday night Procopio (6-1) will enter the Octagon searching for her first UFC win, McCann (10-3) will be looking to get back what she lost against Santos. McCann struggled with the length and strength of Santos, on Saturday, she doesn’t have to face the same physical disadvantages, maybe a telling statistic when the cage door slams shut.
It’s extremely difficult not to gravitate to McCann and her life of overcoming adversity. Nothing has ever come easy, nothing given only earned, you suspect even a win in the Apex will come with a story. With the experience of solitude on the Island behind her, the trip to Vegas could be far more rewarding.
The loss to Santos will look better over time, a win over Procopio will give her time. It will be a small step on the road back but it is one of requirement. The act of defiance is back, a point to prove again to her doubters and to herself. McCann has every reason to be proud of her achievements in life and in the cage. In London, she created a little slice of history, don’t bet against her doing the same in Vegas.