If you ask most of the world, mid-March was a whirlwind. The coronavirus pandemic was sweeping the world as lockdowns were implemented, and while that left many in uncertain circumstances, Ashlee Evans-Smith was uniquely displaced as she tried to ready herself for a bout in London scheduled for March 21. She and her team watched half a world away as travel restrictions were implemented, and the card was eventually postponed.
Ultimately, Evans-Smith went home without having fought, and with a lot of emotions through which to work.
“I’m a very emotional person,” Evans-Smith told UFC.com. “When I’m happy, I’m happy. When I’m sad, I’m very sad, and I was very sad for about a month. I think a lot of us were very sad – fighter or otherwise – because nobody is really used to being out of their routine and locked down like that, but I’m really so grateful because I found a way to pull myself out of it.”
The bout would’ve been her first in about 13 months – a stretch filled with injury, surgery and uncertainty – but as she approaches her bout with Norma Dumont on November 28, the familiarity of fight week remains. And with a fight coming much sooner than later, Evans-Smith is able to reflect on that period of instability when it came to mixed martial arts events and look on it positively.
“When this is all said and done, I can go back and think to myself, ‘Wow. No matter what was going on in the world, I was ready to fight,’” she said.
The gap between bouts is the biggest in her career, but that stretch in the UFC also includes seven trips to the Octagon. That experience gives her confidence and steadiness, and she looks to get back into the winner’s circle after dropping a February 2019 decision to Andrea Lee in Phoenix.
“I think that if you watch back in 2014 until now, I’ve gotten progressively better,” she said. “I’m showing new skills each fight, and this fight on Saturday won’t be different. I think you’re going to see a more relaxed fighter.”
Against Dumont, she is expecting a “heavy hitter,” but she remains distant from committing too heavily on an evaluation, as she knows the sport’s unpredictable nature.
Of her own goals, though, Evans-Smith has a maturity and curiosity with which she views the opportunities in this fight.
“Everyone wants to go in there and get a quick knockout,” she said. “I totally want that as well, but if I go in there, and I show that I’ve improved my skills, my striking is good, my cardio is on-point, when it goes to the ground my transitions are smooth, that’s even better.”
Evans-Smith does lament the absence of fans, the not-so-new normal that hangs around sporting events these days, but she hopes to give those who support her something to cheer for when she returns to the Octagon on November 28. She isn’t expecting to feel any sort of rust, either.
The spring took the floor out from almost everyone, but fight week – that’s something Evans-Smith knows well.
“It’s kind of like riding a bike,” she said. “It feels right. Media day, weigh ins, and then the actual fight. I’m very, very grateful.”