When Molly McCann watched Lara Procopio get her hand raised at UFC Fight Night 184 last February, the Liverpudlian had one thought in her mind: “I’m not doing this anymore.”
It was the second loss in a row for the 31-year-old and meant she went into her next bout in a disastrous position – needing an emphatic victory to earn a new UFC contract.
McCann did just that against Ji Yeon Kim this month – earning a $50,000 (£36,116) Fight of the Night bonus – and the flyweight explained how she came back from rock bottom.
“You could say it was the worst time in my career for outcomes in the cages,” she told BBC Sport.
“I had a wobbly. I had to sit back and think how could I be from this working class city where everyone struggles, every day and just because my adversity is a bit greater than others, am I just going to throw the towel in?
“Will I act like a spoiled brat? I wasn’t even being spoiled, I was heartbroken.”
The heartbreak stretched further back than her near two-year wait for a win. McCann last won a fight in October 2019 when she was on a three-fight winning streak after defeat in her UFC debut.
“I got beat in my UFC debut in such a fashion that it just scarred me,” she said.
“You’re not taught how to deal with it and there’s no-one really there to help. There’s aftercare for the body being broke but not for the mind being broke. It’s literally took me three years to overcome that.”
She added: “My life was so in the balance in this fight.”
McCann has developed a reputation as a straight-talker and no-holds-barred fighter, but the former Cage Warriors star said she’d lost sight of herself in recent years.
Since her last defeat, McCann focused more on her mindset than her training. She felt there was nothing wrong with training and was convinced she was improving in the gym. McCann decided to begin work with a “mind coach” Tom Smyth, who reached out after her loss earlier this year.
McCann believes the refocusing of her mindset led directly to her return to the win column.
“I think the more successful I got the more humble I became. I wasn’t as nasty, I was too polished,” McCann said.
“Everyone knows I’m a nice human, but I’ve got to be nasty to get the best out of my fighting style. I’ve got to showboat a bit when I’m in there. I’ve got to be a little bit more Liverpool.”
“I’m that fighter you’re always going to get the drama with,” she added.
“I’m never going to make it that easy. It’s always everybody on the edge of their seat – people want to watch that.
“People come on the journey with me. It provides light and shade or something.
“It was that moment where I could have absolutely gone hiding there, I could have absolutely given up. There’s moments in fights where that is very much an option. But, not for me. Not for me.”
After her thrilling performance, McCann and her management team are confident she will be offered a new contract by the UFC.
“I couldn’t do anymore. I was value for money,” McCann said, hoping to book her next fight in December with the UFC still wanting to hold an event in the UK before the end of the year.