Molly McCann can’t help but be at the center of a storm of friendly greetings during fight week. The supremely Scouse slugger dishes out hugs and smiles as frequently as she throws punches come fight night, but as she approaches UFC Fight Night: Aspinall vs Tyburya, there’s also an ease with which she moves through the paces.
“I just feel a little bit more at peace,” McCann told UFC.com. “I’ve got roots now. The hard work of these 10 fight camps has brought me to this place.”
While no sport has more emotional highs and lows than fighting, McCann appears to wear those emotions on her sleeve more than most, which is why so many fans gravitate toward “Meatball.” But as she has “grown up in front of everyone” over the course of her 10-fight UFC tenure, she has continued to get a handle on those peaks and valleys.
Part of that is embracing the noise of social media as nothing more than just that. Another is leaning on those close to her. After her three-fight win streak came to a halt courtesy of Erin Blanchfield at UFC 281, McCann once again leaned on her inner circle.
“My fiancée Ellis said, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it wouldn’t be knocked down in a day, either,’” McCann said. “It just hit home. My world is not over. Go and reassess what actually matters. What matters to me the most in the world is my family, my friends and my gym. The way she handled herself through my biggest adversities, as much as she can be a little annoying divvy sometimes, when I really need her, she comes through in spades. I just realized that she’s the person I want to work through life with.”
McCann went on to propose to Ellis, and the two became engaged on New Year’s Eve – their anniversary. On top of that, the two bought a home in Norris Green, where McCann lived as a child. She even got herself a Vespa moped to get around town instead of relying on rideshares and taxis.
For the 33-year-old McCann, it’s all part of tightening the screws and giving herself the best shot to get back into the winner’s circle a year since her last victory, which also came in London’s O2 Arena.
“Life has been a little bit easier, but this has been the toughest camp in terms of mental resilience,” she said. “Coming off a loss and coming back to this city, it’s game, f**kin’ set, and match, isn’t it?”
Although McCann’s last fight was in November 2022, she has known about this matchup with Julija Stoliarenko since late-February. The two were originally booked to fight in Vancouver at UFC 289 before they were moved to mid-July. That translated into a five-month fight camp — abnormally long for any fighter.
Molly McCann Fight Week Interview | UFC London
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Molly McCann Fight Week Interview | UFC London
Plainly, McCann said she has had “enough” of envisioning Stoliarenko standing across from her. All she wants to do is get her hand raised again.
“Fatigue makes cowards out of any man and any woman,” she said. “When you’re tired, that’s when the doubt seeps in. I’ve been tired. This has been a long camp, and it just showed me how strong I am (mentally).”
The stability in her personal life helped McCann weather the ebb and flow of the last 20-plus weeks. That said, she also took on one of the more stressful tasks one can bring upon themselves: opening a restaurant.
With her business partner Joel McCarthy, McCann recently opened Polpetta, an Italian restaurant in Liverpool’s Baltic Market. The restaurant opened earlier this summer with rousing support from the city. Compared with fighting, McCann said the mental stress is comparable, but it is much less physically taxing than her day job.
That’s not to say her focus has drifted away from her task at hand on July 22. She anticipates a fast start from Stoliarenko, who is making her flyweight debut after dropping four of her last five UFC appearances. The former Invicta FC bantamweight champion has won nine of her 10 professional wins via submission (all armbars), so she presents quite the stylistic and physical challenge to McCann.
McCann acknowledges as much and anticipates having to weather an “uncomfortable 30 seconds to a minute of pressure” from the Lithuanian. Should she get past that initial danger, though, she’ll turn on an “onslaught of pressure” that she believes will melt her foe.
She knows enough, however, to not call her shot. It is fighting, after all, but she has made a promise to herself to get a finish. The last two times she did that in London, we were treated to a pair of now-signature spinning elbows.
Those moments are the product of countless hours of work behind the scenes, and McCann has certainly put in her time. Win or lose on Saturday, McCann knows she has already won. That said, a fourth win in five fights certainly sounds sweet.
“I can look in the mirror and be proud of myself that I broke generational curses,” McCann said. “I’m doing what not many are fortunate to do, and I’m just proud, I suppose.”
UFC Fight Night: Aspinall vs Tybura took place live from the O2 Arena in London, England on July 22, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!