Some people go through their entire life wondering what they’re going to do when they grow up. UFC bantamweight newcomer Aspen Ladd never had that problem, as she found her path at the age of 14.
“I knew within the first week of training that I was gonna do this,” Ladd said of her mixed martial arts career. “As soon as I turned 18 I wanted to fight and from there I never stopped.”
A self-proclaimed “shy kid who needed something to do,” Ladd may one of the most experienced 22-year-olds in the sport, as she’s been training for eight years while compiling an 8-1 amateur and 5-0 pro record. Add in an amateur fight with current strawweight contender Cynthia Calvillo and a pro win over TUF 23 finalist Amanda Cooper, and it’s clear that Ladd hasn’t fallen out of the sky for her TUF 25 Finale bout on July 7 against Jessica Eye. But if she’s the underdog against the Ohio veteran, that’s just fine with her.
“I’ve been the underdog in many of my fights and people have talked quite a bit, but it doesn’t bother me,” she said. “It’s something that I’m used to, and it’s not really my style to talk big or anything like that. My style is to just go out and perform, and everyone can say what they want to say after.”
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And truth be told, Ladd has had her sights set on Eye for a long time thanks to her coach Jim West, who told the Folsom, California native a year ago that she wasn’t just going to get a call from the UFC, but that it was going to be Eye that they were calling with.
“He was spot on, it’s was almost telepathic,” she laughs. “So it’s actually someone we were studying and prepared for.”
The call to the biggest promotion in the sport did catch her a little bit by surprise, though.
“Getting up to 5-0, we were thinking about it and saying, ‘This could happen,’” Ladd said. “But honestly, I thought I’d get another fight in with Invicta before they gave me the call. I’m grateful that I got it, though.”
After decisioning talented Sijara Eubanks in January, it was clear that Ladd was ready for the Octagon, and that means ready for the bright lights and attention that comes along with it as well.
“Honestly, I’ve been in the sport for so long and I started training when I was 14, so I’m used to it,” she said. “Maybe I’m not used to the UFC as far as promotion goes, but I’ve been fighting for many years now. I made my pro debut with Invicta, so I’m used to the travel and the attention and I’m handling it pretty well, I think.”
She is. Now all that remains is the fight, and that’s exactly what Ladd plans on bringing to Las Vegas next week.
“They should expect a fight,” she said. “I don’t go out there just to pitter-pat and kinda, sorta try to get the win. I’m gonna go out there to finish. I’m going to push the pace, it’s not going to be boring, and it’s gonna be a good fight. If you’re boring, you don’t really get to this point, and you certainly don’t stay there.”