Molly McCann taking everything in stride and ready to show 'it's my time' at UFC London

First English female to win in the promotion is part of stacked card at O2 Arena this weekend

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JULY 16: (R-L) Molly McCann of England punches Taila Santos of Brazil in their flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 16, 2020 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
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As Molly McCann gets set for what she describes “one of the biggest Fight Night cards there’s possibly ever been”, in her homeland, at a sold-out O2 Arena this weekend, she would be forgiven for getting caught up in the emotion of it all.

Nothing of the sort.

“You’ve seen me before at this time and there’s a lot of energy, a lot going on,” McCann tells The National from her hotel room ahead of Sunday morning's UFC London. “And this time I’m just chill, I’m not putting pressure on myself. I’m going in here to enjoy myself and to win.

“This calm comes from a place of hard work. I just know where I’m at the minute and I know what I’ve given until right now. So I’m good.”

An accomplished flyweight, McCann has been here before, of sorts. In the last UFC London, in March 2019, the Liverpool native defeated Priscila Cachoeira via unanimous decision to become the first Englishwoman to triumph in the UFC.

Yet she isn't keen to reminisce about the past. On Sunday, McCann takes on Brazil's Luana Carolina, part of a stacked card that features teammates, friends and a sizeable crop of the top talent in British MMA.

“I haven’t had a feeling quite like [2019] just because of the storyline attached to the win,” she says. “There’ll never be another first English female win in the UFC, so I’m never getting that moment back again. This is what you dream of, these are the kind of mornings that get you up in the morning when it’s Storm Eunice.

“The weather’s been horrible for this camp and the body’s been sore, and when it’s get tough and you just realise, 'Why are I am doing this?' And then that feeling carries you through those sessions.

“I don’t sit and dwell. You’re as good as your next performance. Nothing in the past - that’s newspaper, that’s chip paper. It’s all about Saturday. I don’t look past tomorrow. I look at every day, give my best to it and then Saturday morning I’ll wake up and think about it all.”

It's why McCann says, despite the obvious magnitude of the event, she's the “most chilled ever”. And that's even with the extended media commitments, or the documentary released on Tuesday by BT Sport that examines the highs and lows of McCann's career, and the battles with mental health.

“Everyone could be a bit nervous about the occasion for me and me fighting off emotion, especially with the documentary that just came out yesterday and a lot a lot going on. But look at me,” McCann says. “If you’re relaxed you don’t gas, if you’re relaxed you pick the correct shots. A calm mind sees clear.

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I’ve done all I can do in training to give her the utmost respect she deserves. She hasn’t taken this fight thinking she’s going to lose
Molly McCann

“Everything’s aligned. The hard work takes you to where the good luck’s going to find you. So as long as you do the work, you’ll get a performance.”

As McCann implies, the confidence comes from the 12 hard weeks of camp – she feels in her best shape ever – not her most recent victory. Back in September, when coming off two losses and with “my career hanging in the balance”, she defeated Ji Yeon Kim by unanimous decision in Las Vegas. Her record stands now at 11-4 in professional MMA, and 4-3 in the UFC.

“This is professional fight No 16 for me … I had only three amateur,” McCann says. “People would have this many fights and then turn professional. So I’ve done a lot of learning on the job, and it’s my time. It’s my time now.”

That said, McCann is wary of the threat posed by Carolina. The Brazilian has won her past two fights, is three from four in the UFC, and 8-2 overall in pro MMA.

“Long and rangy Thai boxer,” McCann says. “What’s new? The UFC have thrown this at me … a lot. I am the smallest in the division, have the littlest range. It’s all the same, it’s just she’s a southpaw.

“I’ve done all I can do in training to give her the utmost respect she deserves. She hasn’t taken this fight thinking she’s going to lose. She’s not coming to England to lose. It’s not what Brazilians do; they’re like Scousers, like Irishmen, like Mexicans. There’s something in here [points to heart] that doesn’t give up. And she matches me there. That’s why the fight will be great.”

To be fair, McCann thinks the entire night will be something fantastic for British MMA. There’s the highly touted Muhammad Mokaev making his debut, fast-rising heavyweight contender Tom Aspinall headlining, and much expected from gifted prospects Jack Shore and Cory McKenna.

Meanwhile, Paddy Pimblett makes his second appearance in the UFC, when he faces Mexican Kazula Vargas in the night’s third-last bout. Much more than teammates, McCann refers to her fellow Liverpudlian as “my brother.” Much, then, is expected from the already hugely popular lightweight.

“The most emphatic walkout in UFC London history, a first-round obliteration of Vargas and an after-party to die for,” McCann says.

Clearly, though, the weekend means a lot all-round.

“It’s the highest honour a fighter in the UFC can probably have, other than main event in your home town, or fighting for world title,” McCann says. “It’s the next stepping stone.

“You’ve one of the biggest Fight Night cards there’s possibly ever been. We’ve got a full O2 Arena, sold out in minutes. And we all – not just myself, everyone from Britain – are just desperate to put on a performance for everyone to watch and to enjoy. I cannot wait.”

Updated: March 17, 2022, 10:54 AM