Following her 16-second TKO loss to Germaine de Randamie at UFC Sacramento earlier this year, coming after a disastrous weight cut, question marks appeared surrounding Aspen Ladd’s longevity in the UFC’s women’s bantamweight division.
This weekend, against former Invicta bantamweight champion Yana Kunitskaya, Ladd not only successfully answered questions about her ability to make weight, but she reminded MMA fans why she is one of the most exciting prospects the UFC has to offer, with a spectacular left-hook knockdown just moments into the third round, and subsequent TKO finish.
In a recent interview with James Lynch, Ladd explained how it felt not only to pick up her third UFC finish but also to earn the first knockdown of her career.
“It was a huge moment. The first knockdown in a fight, I’ve never had quite that reaction during a fight, so it was kind of cool,” Ladd said.
“I was just overwhelmed. It’s been a long time building up to that point. Everything you do is focussed on the moment of getting in there and getting the win. You know, three and a half, four months and then to finally get in there and accomplish your goal. It’s an overwhelming feeling.”
This win also marked Ladd’s return to winning ways, and while the California native is well aware that losing comes with the territory, she also knows that if fully prepared, she is a nightmare match-up for any woman in the division.
“You have ups and downs, it’s a marathon not a sprint kind of thing in this sport. Whether I win or lose, I’m not going to get too caught up in that. It’s always just on to the next thing, on to the next progression. I’ve been training very hard for a very long time in a very specific way with my coaches for this. I was just extremely prepared; I was very comfortable heading into it and very ready to go.”
JOB DONE 👊
@AspenLaddMMA turns it ON in the third!
— UFC (@ufc) December 8, 2019
Professionally, Ladd has been to the judges’ scorecards just twice (both against fellow Invicta product Sijara Eubanks), and while she has been on the right side of both, Ladd remains cautious of leaving her fights up to decision.
That’s why, when she entered the third frame for just the second time in the UFC, Ladd knew she needed to show up and show out for the Washington crowd.
“Decisions are scary. Any time you’re going into the third round of the fight, you have that feeling like ‘Oh gosh, I better go out there and really put an exclamation mark on this’ because you never know. With judging, with everything, you never know.
“Even if you feel confident, you could be completely wrong. Maybe you do think you should win and you won’t depending on where you are. We’re not going to say any countries names, I think we both know! I was fairly confident, but at the same time, there’s uncertainty there so you’ve got to really put out in the third round.”
Prior to Ladd’s third-round demolition of Kunitskaya, her head coach Jim West delivered a particularly animated set of instructions, telling Ladd “I need a f*cking sh*t load more for five minutes.” While the advice clearly worked, as Ladd marched down Kunitskaya and immediately sent her to the canvas, it was not something she had experienced too much before.
“Jim’s a very technical corner, very clear and very simple words. Because it’s easy to understand during the fight, very specific instructions. That was something different, that was ‘You need to get your butt moving into this round’. And he definitely got his point across.”
Coach is NOT holding back 🤬
— UFC (@ufc) December 8, 2019
What does the future hold?
Following such a good win, Ladd has earned some time off and, once the dust has settled from other bouts in the division, notably Amanda Nunes vs. Germaine de Randamie, Holly Holm vs. Raquel Pennington and Macy Chiasson vs. Nicco Montano, a clear opponent will likely reveal themselves.
One who seems like an obvious option is Holm, who was previously slated to face Ladd at UFC 235. Unfortunately for Ladd, the fight was canceled and Holm took on Amanda Nunes instead. Not only would “The Preacher’s Daughter” obviously provide name power to Ladd’s record, but aside from Julianna Pena (another great fight), there isn’t much else available. In addition, Holm has proven a decent litmus test for female prospects in the past few years.
But Ladd doesn’t mind who’s next. Regardless of her opponent, the process remains the same.
“I’ll probably return towards the end of Spring; I think March or April. Plenty of time to get back in the gym, work, get better and then get re-booked.”
“If it’s the Holm fight that’s booked, fantastic, but it’s not something I’m sitting asking for. Whoever I get, and there aren’t that many options, so it won’t be shocking regardless unless it’s some complete unknown.”
“It’s not something I’m sitting here thinking about ‘I want that fight, right now’. It’s more or less just letting it play out. Everybody’s matched up with a dance partner right now, but the rankings will change in the next couple of months. Everybody’s going to be a little bit different to where they are right now, so we’ll see.”