Molly McCann joins us in the studio for episode #089 of Paddy Holohan's No Shame Podcast. 'Meatball' Molly is a professional MMA fighter from Liverpool & is currently signed with the UFC. McCann is also a former Cage Warriors flyweight World Champion & trains out of Next Generation Gym under the guidance of Head Coach Paul Rimmer.
During the podcast Molly reflects on what it was like Growing up in Norris Green, a large working class housing estate in Liverpool & how it helped shape her as a fighter both inside & out of the octagon. She began her mixed martial arts journey as a kid by venturing into the world of Kung Fu, before switching to kick boxing. Not satisfied that either discipline packed a hard enough punch, McCann finally persuaded her mother to sign her up to boxing. Molly fell in love with striking & it turns out she was pretty damn good at it too.
Before her fighting career Molly was a footballer. Although a die hard Evertonian, McCann played for the red half of Merseyside, lining out for Liverpool Football Club at 16 years of age. Molly speaks of her pride in representing the city of Liverpool & recalls her Grandad's tears of joy the day she made her debut. Her footballing career was sadly cut short by an ankle Injury, suffering ligament damage on return from a separate injury.
Convinced that her career as a pro athlete was over, McCann enrolled in John Moores University & began studying to be a PE teacher. By now she was an ABA champion boxer, working shifts in a bar & was invited by two bouncers to take part in an MMA session at Next Generation Gym Liverpool. The bouncers just so happened to be Danny Roberts & Chris Fishgold who now fight in the UFC. McCann explains how the ground game didn't appeal to her at the time but she turned up anyway for a spar. At the end of the session she gave the other fighter permission to grapple & can still remember the moment she was taken down for the first time, in her life, describing it as a truly humbling experience.
Watch the full episode of Paddy Holohan's No Shame Podcast with Molly McCann below:
Paddy talks to Molly about the affinity the City of Liverpool shares with Ireland, McCann herself has strong Irish roots with 3 of her grandparents hailing from Ireland. Molly describes Katie Taylor as one of her key inspirations growing up & looks forward to the day they meet in person so she can personally tell her they share the same bloodline. Molly discovered a few years ago that her Nan's brother is Katie Taylor's grandad. The fact both women have played football, boxed & are leading the way in their respective sports isn't just coincidence, its literally in the genes & it really is a small world at times.
After a night of partying with friends in Uni, Molly describes arriving home, turning on the TV & by chance watching Ronda Rousey submit Liz Carmouche in the early hours. McCann decided on the spot she wanted to emulate Rousey & emailed Paul Rimmer to let him know she'd be at training the next day.
True to her word She arrived to class on Saturday morning, in honour of Rousey's victory the night before Rimmer decided to drill armbars. Instantly, Molly was hooked, so much so that she nearly quit Uni there & then, despite the fact she was 3 months from completing her degree. She did go on to graduate but luckily for us, she never went on to become a PE teacher. After 3 fights at amateur, McCann was forced to turn pro due to lack of competition.
She discusses the incredible bond she shares with her Coach & teammates describing them as family & how the relationship helped her to cope with the tragic death of her father. Some of her Next Gen teammates include household names such as Paddy 'The Baddy' Pimblett, Danny Roberts & Chris Fishgold. Molly can't speak highly enough of Coach Rimmer & explains how he always puts the needs of the fighter first.
The atmosphere in the gym allowed Molly to discover who she was as a person in more ways than she ever could have expected. When Molly met another woman at 25 & realised she was a lesbian, it was never an issue for her to come out to her teammates, who welcomed & supported the announcement. Acceptance & inclusion is a core quality in MMA, one that has allowed McCann to stand proudly as an openly gay fighter in her sport.
In February 2018, McCann realised a dream by becoming a world champion in front of an adoring hometown crowd in Liverpool's Echo Arena at Cage Warriors 90. It was a special moment for McCann who quickly discovered that she was now a name in her own right, worthy of headlining any event.
Things got even better weeks later when Molly received the news that she was on the UFC Liverpool card & would fight again in May. The ecstasy would soon turn to agony however as McCann, with just 4 weeks notice, & having cut nearly 40 lbs, narrowly missed weight by half a pound. As a consequence she could only weigh in 10 lbs heavier the next day. Molly could only refuel on water & describes the horrendous moment she realised she had no energy to defend the takedowns. It was supposed to be a dream debut for McCann which quickly became a nightmare when Gillian Robertson put her to sleep via rear naked choke in the second round, to silence the crowd.
Paddy likens it to his own experience headlining Dublin in which he suffered a similar fate at the hands of Louis Smolka. Both fighters discuss the feeling of waking up in the octagon after being put to sleep in front of their own supporters. The numbness is quickly followed by emptiness & depression ensues for weeks after. However, Molly vowed that it would be the making of her & went back to work with Coach Rimmer, proclaiming that she'd return stronger than before.
Molly would get another shot at UFC London in March 2019, the Day before Patrick's Day. With a large Liverpool crowd in town, Molly dug deeper than ever before to claim an incredible UD win over Priscila Cachoeira. The feet was even more remarkable given Molly fractured her eye socket towards the end of the fight & only had the use of one eye, many men would have quit. Despite a rabbit punch from her opponent, Molly was able to claim her first victory in the UFC & the release of energy upon having her hand raised inside the octagon was personal clarification that she was back.
Listen to / Download Episode #089 of Paddy Holohan's No Shame Podcast below:
McCann made her US debut just a few weeks ago in June at UFC Greenville in what was another out & out war. Despite obtaining another eye injury, Molly notched her second victory in the UFC with a UD win over Ariane Lipski. The win well & truly banished the demons of her Liverpool debut & confirmed the arrival of Meatball Molly on MMA's biggest stage.
Molly shared a touching moment backstage with her opponent after the fight, having gone through a similar experience herself a year previous, she opted against wild celebrations to embrace her defeated opponent & offered words of encouragement.
Honourable mention this week goes to Leah McCourt who makes a brief but memorable cameo in the studio towards the end of the episode.
What a truly incredible podcast, Molly really is a class act altogether. After the show she spent time taking pictures with fans in SBG D24 & gave special encouragement to some of the young teenage girls in training with Simon McEvoy & Sam Doran. It's quite fitting that many girls will look up to her the same way she looked up to Katie Taylor.
Serious feels this week. Molly is an inspirational figure inside & out of the Octagon, if you're not laughing at this weeks episode, you'll be crying & if you're not crying you'll be gone training. In every eventuality it's proper Tuesday motivation for you to help kickstart the week.
The full episode #089 of Paddy Holohan's No Shame Podcast with Molly McCann is available now across all the usual platforms including iTunes, Spotify & Youtube. If you're a fan of the content please subscribe to our Youtube channel.