When Molly McCann learned she would receive a $ 50,000 “Performance of the Night” bonus after UFC Vegas 36, the cheerful and emotional reaction that followed was more than just an extra paycheck.
As she screamed and cried on a Las Vegas street, filmed by a teammate, MMA fans saw someone who finally felt like they had been validated after years of hard work, after hard fights. and disappointments, after thoughts of retirement and literally putting his gloves on the canvas when his MMA career came to a halt.
Certainly, part of McCann’s reaction was about the money and the opportunities he offered after starting the sport by accident after a boxing push. It was still something bigger.
“I came from nothing, so making any money is just the next level,” she said on MMA time. “But I think for me it was recognition of my hard work. It wasn’t even the money so much, but I feel like I could’ve gotten into a few fights from the nights before this one, and I was sort of picked by some of the best-known fighters in the map. So to come full circle, I even had my manager, Graham Boylan, around for this fight … it was just crazy. It was like everything was meant to be.
Seven months earlier, McCann had the MMA world believe she was done with the sport after a lackluster loss to Lara Procopio at UFC Vegas 18. And it was true that she felt like she was being at a dead end after putting all her effort into something, only to be stifled by what she felt like an opponent hesitant to really engage in a fight.
“I was like, I can’t give more than I give,” she said. “I’m coming to fight-fight, and I felt like this person I fought, Lara, came just to hang on and not even try to finish me off, literally just try to pin me down or on the wall. If you’re going to beat me, please try to submit or finish me off and sideline me, don’t just stall. I had never faced this kind of fight before. In boxing it’s like a dead end, a bit of a companion, and I feel like that’s what she was, and I wasn’t prepared for that, because people don’t fight like that in MMA.
“So, I felt like I was roughed up in terms of drug cheaters and shitty clashes, and I never turned down a fight. I know, stylistically, that I’m going to be dealing with styles that don’t really match mine. But it was just boring having it back to back.
What the cameras didn’t see was a behind-the-scenes conversation between her and her coaches that provided needed perspective. They told him to think of Michael Bisping, the first major UFC star and a UFC middleweight champion after 25 appearances and countless triumphs and setbacks in the Octagon.
“You think he’s never sat like that and never felt what you feel,” recalls McCann. “So go on and keep cracking up like he did.”
To get back on her feet, “Meatball” Molly had to change her surroundings. The local fame she shared with her Liverpool teammates at Next Generation MMA made it difficult to gain mental space, so she flew to Spain and started training there. After “96 rolling rounds” she entered a grappling tournament and won. She then teamed up with a performance sponsor and trainer, Tom Smith, who told her she was settling down and needed to push herself again.
In the Octagon last Saturday, McCann did just that, battling shot for shot and position for position with Ji Yeon Kim over three rounds, making the unanimous decision to break his two-fight slip.
“I just had to have a few long words with myself, and I feel like I’m back,” she said.
McCann is currently isolated under COVID-19 protocols in her native UK. She believes her hand is badly broken and will have an MRI next week to determine the extent of the damage. The effects of the fight, from the swelling of his fingers to the throbbing of his head, begin to kick in after the Las Vegas summit.
Seeing his teammate Paddy Pimblett fulfill his UFC dream and capture the attention of the MMA world, it took a while for McCann to come back to earth.
Soon, she will move on to practical matters, like a new improved UFC contract and her next opponent. Oh, and a deposit on a house. Money makes a huge difference when it comes to nothing.
“I always said all I wanted in fighting was a world title and having a home bought,” she said. “If you can say you have a fully paid house and your mortgage is over, then you’ve done pretty well, haven’t you?” Falling into MMA a bit by accident and then having an amazing career is just crazy.