Bec Rawlings of Australia warms up backstage during the UFC Fight Night event at the Toyota Center on February 4, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)" align="center" /> Bec Rawlings had a problem late in training camp for her Saturday bout against Jessica-Rose Clark, something she had dealt with before, but not in several years.
“I said to my coach, ‘I feel too good. This feels weird to me. I’m not used to feeling this good.’”
Rawlings laughs, not the usually response received this close to fight night, but oh, what a difference ten pounds can make.
“Normally I’m very focused and concentrating on my diet and trying to get through training camp basically on zero calories,” said the Brisbane battler, who will make her first walk to the Octagon as a flyweight this weekend. “Whereas this camp I’ve eaten well. I still eat clean and I still track everything I’m doing just because I’m very obsessive with my fight camps and take everything very seriously. But I’ve been able to focus a hundred percent on fighting. I felt amazing this camp. It’s crazy.”
For the longest time, that wasn’t the case. Sure, Rawlings won two of her first three UFC bouts over Lisa Ellis and Seohee Ham at 115 pounds, but after defeats to Paige VanZant and Tecia Torres, the fights were more with the scale than her opponents.
“It got to the point where the love that I have and feel for fighting, which is obviously got me into the sport and what got me to where I am today, was getting siphoned out of me,” she admits. “The risk versus the reward, everything that I put my mind and body through, it was hell. It got to the point where I said, ‘Why am I doing this? It’s not worth it.’ And that’s a very bad place to be mentally when you’re going into a fight.”
The realization that her days as a strawweight were over truly hit home before the bout against Torres in February. Rawlings had already missed weight for the fight, coming in at 117.5 pounds, and as she prepared for battle on fight night, it wasn’t long before she realized her tank was empty.
“I wasn’t myself,” she said. “I was already done 20 seconds into my warm-up before going out there. With such a hard sport like this, when you’re putting your body on the line, you have to love every second and minute of it.”
After losing a three-round decision to Torres, the 28-year-old sat down and looked at the big picture. And when it came to fighting, she didn’t like what she saw.
“I was at the point where I couldn’t fight,” Rawlings admits. “I said I’m gonna just have to sit and wait, and I was exploring my options. Maybe I could get released and go fight somewhere else because I was done killing myself to make this weight and fighting like s**t.”
Soon, though, there was a light at the end of the tunnel when it was announced that the UFC was bringing in a 125-pound weight class for the ladies. And just like that, Bec Rawlings had a UFC career again.
“I was over the moon,” she said. “When that news came out, I was ecstatic. I felt a big weight lifted off. I could stop stressing about my future, my income, my kids and everything because I knew that this is where I belong and where I’m gonna make a run for the title. That idea with the strawweight division fizzled away. So it was the best news in a long time.”
And she gets to make her UFC flyweight debut at home in Australia. Sure, she doesn’t get a matchup with fellow contender Joanne Calderwood, who withdrew from the fight due to injury, but she does have an opponent in fellow Aussie Clark, and no matter who stands across from her, a win moves her closer to a title shot than it would at 115 pounds.
“That (getting a title shot) was one of my main motivators and it’s within arm’s reach,” Rawlings said. “I just have to go out there and perform how I know I’m capable of performing and I have every bit of confidence that I’ll make it to that title shot. And it’s exciting because I get to fight new people too. It’s a whole new division opened up and it’s fresh to me. With the strawweights, it’s the same old people I’ve been competing against or may be competing against since I was in Invicta.”
Some she even had to live with for six weeks during season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter.
There’s that “Rowdy Bec” laugh again, and it’s good to hear it once more.
“It (fighting at strawweight) just got old and tiring and now I’m looking forward to bashing some new faces.”