In her first fight back after suffering a significant knee injury, Maycee Barber faced a rising flyweight contender in Alexa Grasso at UFC 258. The comeback didn’t go as planned, as Grasso used slick striking from range and her ground game to put the fight out of reach for Barber.
Even though she came up short that day against Grasso, that third round was a major moment for Barber. She came at Grasso with relentless pressure and was truly feeling herself all the way up to the final horn.
Earlier this month, Grasso defeated Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 285 to become the third undisputed champion in women’s flyweight history.
Barber watched that fight closely, keeping the thought of her matchup with Grasso at the top of her mind. The takeaways were confidence and hunger. Confidence that if she can compete with the champ and the hunger she needed to make that run to the top.
“I wasn’t shocked. I wasn’t surprised. I think that [Grasso] is a phenomenal fighter,” Barber told UFC.com. “I thought that if there were two people in the division at the time that could dethrone Valentina Shevchenko, it would be Alexa Grasso and Taila Santos. I think that Valentina was exposed by both of them, and Alexa was able to capitalize on that exposure that she got.
“I was very happy for her and obviously that’s great for me to know that I lost to the current champ, and I won the third round against her. That makes me hungry and want to get that fight back. At the same time, I’m happy for her. She’s worked a lot and she grinds and works really hard for what she gets. I have nothing bad to say about her other than I want that fight back.”
Looking back at it, Barber feels like that successful third round was the launching point. After that, she rattled off three straight decision victories over Miranda Maverick, Montana De La Rosa, and Jessica Eye.
And while “The Future” would have preferred to finish those bouts, each of those fights was more about regaining her footing in the division. Winning rebuilt her confidence, and the time spent in the Octagon was valuable experience she can take into her upcoming bout with Andrea Lee at UFC Fight Night: Vera vs Sandhagen.
“The last three fights it really just feels like getting my feet back under me coming off a pretty significant injury. I had a loss, then my next one was a decision, and then the few after that were decisions because those were tough girls, too,” Barber said with a smile. “I feel like I’ve gained a lot of experience. This fight week feels exactly like all those fight weeks where I’ve got those finishes. I feel great and I have a lot of joy and thankfulness to share it.”
Barber’s last finish came back in 2019, when she defeated Gillian Robertson by TKO in Boston. That was also Barber’s last time fighting outside of Las Vegas. This weekend she’ll square up with Lee in San Antonio.
Lee, who hails for Texas, comes into this weekend looking to bounce back after a loss to Viviane Araújo last May. Barber knows the crowd inside AT&T Center will likely be pro-Lee but that won’t take away from the excitement of fighting outside of Nevada.
“I’m very excited to feel a different crowd with different energy and different scenery. I fought at T-Mobile Arena and the UFC APEX a lot, so being at a different place is going to be really cool,” Barber said. “I know Texas is a great crowd, so I’m very excited.”
Delivering a statement win over Lee would go a long way in Barber’s campaign to crack the division’s Top 10 and capture some momentum in a division that is certainly heating up with new contenders.
“I’m probably one of the people that got built up and then got injured. I want to build that back. I am someone that people need to watch, and a lot of girls need to fear that,” Barber said. “I’m just going to keep dominating and prove that I belong at the top of the division, and I can finish these girls.”
“By the end of the year I’m definitely in the Top 10, and with another finish or two I’ll just keep going toward that title.”
UFC Fight Night: Vera vs Sandhagen took place live from the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas on March 25, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!