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Molly McCann trains at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas, Nevada, on January 29, 2024. (Photo by Zac Pacleb/Zuffa LLC)
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Molly McCann Has Even More To Give

Liverpool’s Molly McCann Hopes To Kickstart A New Chapter Of Her Career As She Makes Her Strawweight Debut At UFC Fight Night: Dolidze vs Imavov

Sat in the locker room of the O2 Arena in London after Julija Stoliarenko submitted her via armbar two minutes into their fight, Molly McCann was ready to call it a career. She gave it a night to think about it, and the heart-on-her-sleeve Scouser felt about the same as she rode the train back up north. As she contemplated retirement, her coach Paul Rimmer came up to her with a promise and a request:

“I’ll tell you when enough is enough,” McCann recalled him telling her. “I promise I won’t let you get hurt. I won’t let you take shots or more shame or embarrassment than you feel you need to take, but just give me one fight at 115.”

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McCann agreed, announced the decision on her social media a couple days later and began the process of changing molding her body into that of a strawweight after spending her entire career as a 125er. 

Molly McCann trains at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas, Nevada, on January 29, 2024. (Photo by Zac Pacleb/Zuffa LLC)
Molly McCann trains at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas, Nevada, on January 29, 2024. (Photo by Zac Pacleb/Zuffa LLC)

At UFC Fight Night: Dolidze vs Imavov, McCann makes her divisional debut against a familiar face in Diana Belbita, whom she beat via decision in October 2019. McCann believes she will see the fruits of her labor come February 3 and kick off a new chapter in her career. 

“I didn’t think I could ever give any more to this game, (but) I have,” McCann told UFC.com. “I’ve ran more. I’ve weighed my own meals; my mental state has come together. My Fight IQ has come together, and this weight allows me to bring the whole arsenal together. I get to do it all now because my skillset and my strength and power will outmuscle this weight category. It’s a very relaxed, composed, and excited Meatball. I’m like a slice of mortadella ham now. I’m not really a ball of meat anymore.”

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Before she started her body transformation in full, however, she needed to shed some metaphorical weight off her shoulders. After suffering back-to-back submission losses, McCann competed in a Polaris event in November where she earned a win via armbar in a bit of full-circle poetry. She also earned her BJJ brown belt before competing and winning the ADCC British championships. 

Molly McCann of England reacts after her knockout victory over Hannah Goldy in a flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at O2 Arena on July 23, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Molly McCann of England reacts after her knockout victory over Hannah Goldy in a flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at O2 Arena on July 23, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Although those accomplishments don’t wipe the loss off her record, it cleared her mind before she tries to do the same in the UFC APEX this weekend. 

“It’s good to get the pressure of feeling the pressure again before having to make the walk to the Octagon,” she said. “It’s given me a new lease on life. I feel very untouchable because of it. I feel like if you can work on your craft hard enough and get positive results, it’s going to benefit your mental just as much.”

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Her next fight coming against a familiar foe five years after their first run-in adds to the poetic nature of McCann’s journey down a weight class. McCann and Belbita both see themselves as remarkably different fighters since that bout at UFC Fight Night: Reyes vs Weidman. McCann revealed she was battling food poisoning on fight day and acknowledges the jitters Belbita might’ve felt, given that it was her UFC debut. After that bout, Belbita moved down to strawweight and has gone 2-2 since that decision. 

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It's not exactly a grudge match, however. McCann said things are amicable between the two, and Belbita even reached out to social media jesting about going through a fight camp over the holiday period. McCann does see the matchup as a great measuring stick for the two to see exactly how much has changed since then. 

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McCann is also heading into this fight with emotional weight on her shoulders, a position she is accustomed to at this point. A training partner and friend of McCann, Ryan Curtis, suffered a severe back and neck injury during a training session in Ireland.

McCann flew to visit with him on her last off-day before fight week, where they discussed her fight with Belbita. To honor him, McCann said she is using his walkout music and will give her gloves to him after her bout. 

For one reason or another, McCann always seems to carry an extra bit of emotion into a fight week, but the 33-year-old Liverpool native knows how to handle that without it coming at the expense of her personal goals within a fight. After nearly hanging up the gloves, she is keen to make the most on a second life in the organization. 

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“I feel like, as you get older, you learn how to handle the adversities,” McCann said. “I’ve been to the moon and back a few times in this game, and I just feel like, through experience, and through experiencing them moments, you learn. You’re in these positions where it’s a learning process, or you’re getting the mastership of that moment.

“I’ve definitely mastered losing now (laughs). I’ve had enough of that, so I’m going to master winning, as well.”

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UFC Fight Night: Dolidze vs Imavov took place live from UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 3, 2024. See the final Main Card & Prelim Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!