Molly & Paddy: London’s Calling
Molly McCann is not only a survivor of life, in many ways, she is a winner in life. In a life that has thrown virtually everything at her, yet somehow, McCann has thrived amongst a tsunami of adversity. Brought up around a family of addition and more, but love, perseverance and that inner fight that defines her home city saw her through. But along the way there has been plenty of darkness, mourning the premature loss of her father was beyond hard.
Her ‘little’ brother Paddy Pimblett in different ways, has overcome his share of strife. A career that once looked set for stardom suddenly looked at risk. Ignoring advice, and common sense, an already injured and recently operated on wrist was made worse by taking a fight with Soren Bak in 2018. Despite nearly winning the fight in the opening seconds, Pimblett lost that fight when the pain and restrictions of the lingering injury proved too much.
Pimblett spent time on the sidelines, fighting depression, the dark thoughts that his career was over, left him without a cause. But in those months in the MMA wilderness, Pimblett grew up. The Liverpool fighter was always immensely talented but without the professionalism his sport demands, the time away was used for reflection and a realisation of what was needed.
As the wrist slowly healed and his mind cleared and with hope restored, Pimblett reminded everyone of his talents. Two wins behind closed doors in Cage Warriors finally convinced Pimblett and the UFC to join forces. The UFC had long courted Pimblett since the early days, Pimblett had resisted the calls. But both parties realised last year they needed each other. Timing is everything.
After three years away the UFC returned to UK soil in March, and the reason that they are back again so soon is largely down to Pimblett and McCann.
McCann started her UFC career getting choked unconscious in front of her Liverpool faithful. But in her last fight, she delivered the mother of all knockouts. A sign of her evolution as an MMA fighter. And her resilience. It looked as though her UFC career had flatlined after two successive defeats during the long days of the Pandemic. But a two-fight win streak has put her back to where she was in March 2020.
Ashlee Evans-Smith was scheduled for UFC London before Covid knocked everything out. Many forget that McCann was probably only two fights away from a UFC title shot. Ranked and riding an impressive three-fight winning run, a win over Evans-Smith would likely have taken her to a fight with someone in the top 10, and a possible shot at Valentino Shevchenko after that. Covid cost McCann her momentum. The sensational win over Luana Carolina got that back. And more.
With his big sister in full celebration mode, Pimblett walked to the Octagon in true superstar mode. With a performance that carried more than a hint of the future, Pimblett rode out an early scare to record his second UFC victory. Another first round finish, Pimblett had the look of a special fighter. The O2 Arena had recently been battered by Storm Eunice, the noise that greeted Pimblett probably carried a greater threat. Storm Baddy had a little more power.
Pimblett and McCann will look to build on what they achieved in March when the UFC returns to London on Saturday. Hannah Goldy and Jordan Leavitt will try and stop the Scouse momentum. The odds say they won’t, but not by much. Pimblett and McCann will look to carry on where they left off. The fans will demand more of the same. In truth, they just have to win. A minor detail that often gets lost.
The Liverpool duo have something that you just can’t buy. Or fake. They are different, but go deep, they are very much the same. Both are socially aware, neither are likely to forget their roots. A deep hatred of the Tories, in a city that has every reason to. Fighters for the people. And a voice for them also.
McCann said she got to the UFC on heart, words that are a little harsh. She has always been a better fighter than she is given credit for. But McCann has refined and evolved her game. Those title dreams are not over yet. Before a return to boxing, McCann is still chasing UFC gold. Stranger things have happened.
I always remember Pimblett telling me he was a shy kid at school, and I couldn’t help thinking where the hell did that guy go. He sure has found his voice now. But behind the show, there is a real fighter who could be something very special indeed.
London is calling, Pimblett and McCann are unlikely to be found wanting. They were born to be on this stage. In many ways, both are where they need to be.
Photo Credit: Zuffa/UFC