Molly McCann: “If the book helps people understand themselves better and feel safe then I have done my job.”
The life and career of UFC flyweight contender Molly McCann have rarely run in straight lines. The various twists and turns will make for an autobiography that will be difficult to put down when her life has reached the stage where McCann will feel obliged to tell her story in full.
That stage hasn’t yet been reached. There are mountains to climb in her current world, a must-win fight in a few months to keep her current dream alive. But the UFC is just another chapter in her engrossing life. There will be at some point an old world to re-enter, a new one to embrace and conquer after that. The ambitions of Molly McCann seemingly have no limits.
McCann can also now quite rightly call herself an author. The debut offering is out now, available on Amazon. Be True To You is Molly’s coming out story, a very personal tale of someone who felt compressed inside her body, not feeling comfortable in her own skin for 25 years.
As the press release for the book states:
‘A short, beautifully illustrated children’s book that shows the struggles and the fears of someone who is finding their sexuality.
‘This book is an easy read for young children who may not understand their sexuality just yet, it will allow parents to have safer conversations and promote a safe space to maybe come out in. The book explains how hard it was for Molly and also has pages where a child can also draw their story for their parents as a coming out aid.’
McCann is not only a fighter by trade she is a fighter through and through. Citing resilience as her biggest asset, the Liverpool fighter has certainly needed it throughout her life of many challenges.
Only a year ago McCann was on a three-fight winning streak and ranked in the top 15 of the UFC flyweight division. But Covid has hit hard, if nothing else it took away her momentum. The ranking has gone, the streak replaced by a two-fight skid, once again McCann is fighting to keep her place at the table. She is unlikely to be found wanting.
McCann would be excused if she focused solely on her UFC career, but she has decided to raise awareness and tell her coming out story in a very unique way:
“I got a new mind coach after I lost my last fight, and I got on a really good high. I thought I am a really good person and I have a really good work ethic, I’m not going to stop fighting it’s just going to take me longer to get to the top. Then I thought what can I do for my sexuality community. For Gay Pride month I would always do a post and I would go on marches. But I thought what am I really doing to break down barriers and stigma and raise awareness to let people know it is ok to be who you are. A lot of people are brought up thinking it’s not ok through religion, different cultures and old generational views. People thinking this is right or that is normal and life just isn’t that way anymore.
“So speaking with my mind coach Tom Smith I said I am going to be like you and write a book about my coming out story because I have never really told it. It’s my story, my coming story in a children’s illustrated book. At the back of the book it’s got space for the kids to tell their story if they think they may be gay.”
McCann 31, found it hard being true to herself. Cruel taunts in her childhood left lasting mental scars. Words cause damage and pain that are rarely visible. Those words left her feeling the truth was an uncomfortable one that had to be compressed and hidden, denied even. McCann suffered in silence, a painful lonely adolescence at times:
“A lot of people wouldn’t have realised how much of a struggle it was for me to come out and be true to myself. It did take me until I was 25 to come out and be comfortable in my own skin and that is really late and really sad. It’s really upsetting that it took me that long to feel comfortable about and acknowledge my feelings. My inner monologue was just horrible, I grew up and people just took the piss and always calling me gay. Then you have a negative association and you do everything not to be like that. So for people to take the piss out of you for who you love or who you are when you can’t help it can scar you for life.”
Without fighting, McCann may well have stayed confined to a life of denial and without true love. In many ways, her fighting life has helped her beyond even she could have imagined:
“I thought about coming out 10 years ago but I thought I am not ready yet. But then 5 years ago I felt ready, It was only through friends and my fighting family, through the gym and feeling safe that I felt comfortable enough to speak the truth. If the book helps people understand themselves better and feel safe then I have done my job.”
The more you read about McCann the more you learn, there always seems more. A love for writing poems was a very early therapy for her. It was telling her something that she only recently realised:
“The best one I wrote was one called Mountains, about a loner who just wanted to be like everyone else. This poem was all about feeling lonely. I said to my Mum doesn’t that tell you something, that I was feeling segregated and feeling different to everyone else. I was 10 when I wrote that.”
Even at such a tender age McCann sensed she was different, almost certainly part motivation for the idea of a children’s book instead of a more standard approach to telling her coming out story.
I always worried about McCann. An open book who always gives you a piece of her when you interview her. Nothing is hidden, questions are answered with honesty. But you get to know how fragile she was not so long ago.
MMA is so important to her, at times maybe a little too much. A defeat to Gillian Robertson on her UFC debut hit her hard. But now there seems a more hardened shell. The tears have still flowed after recent defeats, but there is also now an acceptance that is part of life. I worry no more.
McCann has now found balance in her life and mind:
“I feel like business and career-wise I have found a healthy balance. When you try to be the working-class hero, to be a success, be a role model and be the person you can be, that is not always the best person for relationships, friends and family. It’s trying to find that balance, but you will always get that with businessmen or women, sometimes they have to sacrifice family and friends in order to be successful. I just think until I have finished fighting that’s what I will have to keep doing.”
Less is more applies to Be True To You. The simplicity shouldn’t hide the depth of meaning. It highlights perfectly McCann’s early pain and confusion. Her one regret is not being honest with herself and having to hide away from her true self. The book sends an important message. It is OK to just be you.