When the scheduled Fight Night in London was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Molly McCann reacted in a way equal parts relatable and distinctly suiting her.
“I just burst into tears, and then I went to Smokehouse, and I had a big rack of ribs, big pints of cider, and then I went home,” McCann told UFC.com. “I woke up on Monday morning and just went to the gym as normal, did two sessions. I kind of went on with life as if I’m still in fight camp.”
McCann, who lives with her uncle and grandmother, is doing what most of the world is attempting at the moment: finding order amongst the chaos.
“I’ve literally tried to wake up and do three things a day,” she said. “So, one thing for myself, one thing for the people I live with and one thing for the community. I’ve just tried to keep as much routine and normalcy as I can. I won’t sleep past 8 a.m. because I wouldn’t do that in fight camp, so I’m not going to stay up until 2 a.m. and then get up at 11 and just waste life because what’s the point?”
Part of that routine is taking her French bulldog, Frank, out for a walk, which is what she is occupied with during our interview. Frank is particularly energetic these days as his daily saunters have gone from three per day to just one, and during our time on the phone alone, he finds himself greeting other dogs and taking an interest in a passing moped.
McCann, to her credit, balances her attention well and explains her emotions about a four-month fight camp ending without a competitive resolution. While she might have to wait longer than anticipated to try to extend her winning streak to four, she feels the time isn’t wasted.
“That sacrifice and what I gained in that camp is all still with me,” McCann said. “It doesn’t just disappear into thin air, so it’s just more time until I get to showcase my talent. But it’s surreal. You know when you go on vacation and you exchange currency, so say I go to anywhere in Europe, they have Euros, when I have Euros, it’s not like real money so you just spend it like it’s nothing. This time I’m living in now is like that. It’s like it’s not real life. It’s just like we’re in some weird movie, and it’s just not real.”
To fill the extra down time, McCann set up a PlayStation and has taken to UFC 3, FIFA 20 and Call of Duty among her games of choice.
But naturally, the Scouser has found plenty of ways to continue her training. Although getting all the materials necessary to train has been a bit tricky, local gyms helped her gather everything she needs.
“It’s so funny how the community has come together to give me bits that I need,” McCann said. “It’s great. Another gym has given me battle ropes, Bulgarian bags, kettlebells, skipping rope, all little bits. It’s nice to know, as much as I try to give back to the community, they pay it forward to give it back to me tenfold.”
That connection to her city is something that has buoyed McCann throughout her journey. For the last seven years, McCann has called the Kensington area of Liverpool home, and she has enjoyed seeing the community pull together to help one another out where they can. McCann and her girlfriend Paige have helped, as well, grabbing groceries for people who aren’t able.
“It’s nice to know our sense of community, it’s like back in the old days where people used to sit on the stoop and hang out on the street. That’s where we’re at now where I am, and I love it.”
McCann’s link to the area and general attitude makes her an easy fan favorite, and she appreciated her local fans picking her up emotionally when her UFC debut ended in defeat. In the 10 months between her debut and second bout, McCann said she battled depression and anxiety, but having that foundational support allowed her to make the necessary adjustments and set herself up for victory. It paid off, and McCann became the first Englishwoman to win in the UFC, a milestone she takes some pride in but hopes more than anything it opens the door for more girls from England to take up the sport in the future the same way watching Ronda Rousey did for McCann.
In the present, however, McCann was eager to accomplish another first: a finish. In addition to her first UFC win, McCann earned two wins in her first two bouts in the United States. Kicking off her 2020 campaign back home in England with a finish would’ve been a nice bookend to the run that now has her in the top 15 of the flyweight division.
“I just wanted to submit a grappler,” McCann said. “I wanted to take her down. I wanted to punch her. And I just really, really, really wanted to show everyone I’m top 10.”
For now, though, she’s focused on climbing the flyweight summit. Even though she didn’t get the chance to make that second walk in O2 Arena just yet, she sees it as just another test of her resilience, something she feels is a strength of hers. And if there’s anything McCann has proven in her nearly two years on the roster, it’s that she shouldn’t ever be counted out, no matter the circumstances.
“There’s a few of us in the UFC who are still training, who are still doing this, still doing that,” McCann said. “They’re people with similar levels of resilience because it’s like you’re not taking away my life, you’re not taking away my dream.”