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Molly McCann 'in shape of my life' after dropping down to strawweight for crunch UFC contest in Las Vegas

Drop in weight class has given Molly McCann "new lease of life" as she looks to revive career in crucial UFC contest in Las Vegas on Saturday night; McCann has lost back-to-back fights but says she has "unique feeling" as she prepares to face Diana Belbita

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UFC's Molly McCann discusses her decision to drop down a weight class ahead of her fight this weekend against Diana Belbita

It has been a bruising last 14 months for Molly McCann, yet you wouldn't know it as she beams with genuine excitement and anticipation ahead of arguably the biggest fight of her career.

Back-to-back defeats have turned the heat up on McCann for her UFC contest against Diana Belbita on Saturday evening but the Liverpudlian is far from a woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders or feeling like she has a point to prove.

Speaking to Sky Sports a few days out from her Las Vegas showdown, she was relaxed, measured and a picture of calm as she proclaimed being "in the shape of my life".

Dropping down a weight class to strawweight for the first time in her career has clearly given the 33-year-old a spring in her step.

Molly McCann is taking time out of the sport after a whirlwind 2022
Image: Molly McCann is feeling in the best shape of her life for her crucial UFC contest on Saturday evening

McCann says it was the morning after her first-round shock flyweight defeat to Julija Stoliarenko at a packed-out O2 Arena in London last July that she considered her next steps with coach Paul Rimmer and what needed to happen to get her career back on track.

"When we were travelling back home, I said to my coach and my fiancée, I'm done, I can't keep doing this because I give too much of myself away to the MMA community, to the media, to the trolls, to everyone," McCann said.

"I'm an open book. I'm raw and honest and it was just too painful. It was too hard to take. My opponent was 20 lbs heavier than me in the cage - it's obvious I was in the wrong weight class.

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"On the way home, my coach said on the train, you need to drop this weight and I'll tell you when enough is enough, and I promise you I'll never let you get hurt but you're only getting manoeuvred by bigger, stronger girls and when you train with the strawweights, you annihilate them."

So there and then, the decision was made. While discipline has always been key to McCann's training and fitness regimes, her more recent camps have been on another level.

"Instead of six weeks dieting, it's 12, and it's a lot more kilometres on the clock running. I feel like a new lease of life."

It has been far from an easy journey. McCann calls it "the toughest of my life". Switching her macronutrients around to accommodate more carbs and less fat and adding longer and more frequent runs into her programme has been just two ingredients of her plan. One she is desperate to bear fruit come Saturday night.

"I haven't just ran a million miles and not lifted. I've done my full fight camp like I normally would but just added on three or four recovery runs extra a week and it's been hard, but I'm in the shape of my life."

There have been times McCann has considered retiring after two successive defeats. Before falling to Stoliarenko, she suffered a brutal opening-round submission loss to American Erin Blanchfield at UFC 281 in New York back in November 2022, but her dogged determination to keep battling has ensured she keeps those fires burning.

"I've found a few things out about myself," McCann said. "There's not many people who could take two losses on the highest stage of their career, being finished the way they have to then come back in the manner that I have out of MMA and in the jiu jitsu world, and my professional career of owning businesses and to come back and do this and looking the way that I do. I've given myself to it."

Erin Blanchfield, left, punches England's Molly McCann during the first round of a women's flyweight bout in the UFC 281
Image: Erin Blanchfield, left, punches England's Molly McCann during the first round of a women's flyweight bout in the UFC 281

Her honesty and passion inside and outside the Octagon have turned her into a fans' favourite - even if there have been those who have doubted her ability at the top level.

McCann, however, has not wasted her energy on the negativity and is mentally in a strong place this week.

"I'm feeling very calm. Normally I have a lot of emotion, a big ball of energy and fight week and fight night is the moment I feel fulfilled and very excited. This is my 12th UFC bout, it's my 20th professional bout, and I finally feel like dropping this weight and coming into this new weight division that I'm finally in my flow and this is where I should've probably always been.

"It's a unique feeling I've never really felt before."

A fighter reborn. It now all comes down to Saturday night.

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