Alexa Grasso’s victorious flyweight debut went off seemingly without a hitch against Ji Yeon Kim in 2020 and now, just five months later, she’s ready for the test that lies ahead of her in Maycee Barber.
The 27-year-old spent the entirety of her professional mixed martial arts career climbing the strawweight ranks, battling what proved, over time, to be a taxing weight cut on top of consistently challenging opponents across both Invicta FC and UFC.
Grasso’s body is now “thanking her” after her long-awaited decision to move up to flyweight, a division which has boasted a steady influx of talent since its arrival to the UFC in December of 2017.
"It's going to fire in the cage."@AlexaGrasso discusses her move up to flyweight and her upcoming #UFC258 co-main event with Maycee Barber 🔊⬆️— UFC News (@UFCNews) February 11, 2021
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“I feel so much better. I feel happier,” Grasso told UFC.com ahead of her 16th pro fight. “I’m able to enjoy every second of the training, every second of the fight week, every second of the weight cut.”
After going undefeated in nine straight fights to start her professional career, Grasso has faced an ostensibly unbreakable win-loss pattern, falling to names like Tatiana Suarez and Carla Esparza, and boasting victories over the likes of Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Randa Markos.
It’s an emotionally taxing pattern she hopes to break and leave behind on Saturday in her fifth UFC co-main event showing, with a statement win over breakout rising flyweight star Maycee “The Future” Barber.
“Well, being here in the UFC is honestly kind of tough,” Grasso said, laughing. “It’s the biggest platform for MMA athletes. But I think that the key to success is to never give up. At some point you’re always going to be on the floor, but you have to get back up and keep trying and keep fighting and do your best.”
Grasso also wants to assert her dominance and prove she belongs in a new weight class; one which she feels more at home in with each fight.
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“I think that my body is stronger than the first time,” Grasso said with an air of confidence about her that could hold its own against Barber’s own self-assured personality. “I feel more adapted, and it’s going well. I like this new division a lot.”
With more confidence in her ability to make weight, and with more energy to spend on all the little details during her fight camps, there’s one less colossal hurdle standing in her path to victory.
The Guadalajara, Mexico native was able to dedicate time to perfecting her ability to defend arguably the biggest obstacle that stands in her way: Barber’s takedown attempts.
“I’ve had trouble with high level grapplers, but I’ve been working so hard on that,” Grasso explained, alluding to the fact that in order to be able to defend takedowns, you have to be able to understand how to execute them to begin with. “I know that my strongest point is my striking, but I’ve been working really hard on my wrestling.”
Grasso, whose humility and technical skill have caught the eyes of thousands of loyal and supportive fans, is hoping to prove to herself that no challenge is too big of a challenge, regardless of what type of fighter stands opposite of her in the Octagon.
“I consider myself a very technical athlete,” Grasso said. “I love the art of martial arts -- good boxing, good kicks, when everything looks nice.”
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt also acknowledged Barber’s technical skill, describing her prediction for the matchup to be “fire in the cage.”
“I think she’s a very well-rounded athlete, she’s young,” Grasso said of her opponent, only five years her junior. “But I’m ready for that. I think it’s going to be a very attractive fight because we both like to go all the time. We both do great boxing, we both kick, so it’s going to be a great fight.”
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The 15th-ranked Mexican said she’d be happy to wake up on Sunday “with purple eyes and a win in her heart and for her country,” over the tenth-ranked Barber, but additionally, she has her eye on breaking into the top ten of the flyweight division.
“She has the number I want,” Grasso said with a slightly unfamiliar level of intensity. “I’ve been training so hard to get to that spot.”
Confident in the work she’s put in while ascending to a new weight class, and preparing for a hitlist of new, thorny opponents, Grasso is ready to cement her spot in the flyweight division. She said the spotlight is going to be on her, and the contenders better be watching.