Following two losses in a row, UFC bantamweight Ashlee Evans-Smith is pulling inspiration from those outside of the cage. Evans-Smith, who suffered her most recent loss at UFC 215 against Sarah Moras, isn’t letting unfamiliar territory hold her down. Part of her motivation to get back to the top comes from her real fans.
“I feel like ideally I’d like to fight in January,” Evans-Smith told ChicagoLandSportsRadio.com. “I know the New Year’s card is pretty full, but that one would be rad to be on. So, I’d say either early or mid-January.”
Evans-Smith suffered her loss to Moras in early September. It came approximately five months after her April defeat at the hands of Ketlen Vieira. Before her two losses, Evans-Smith had been on a two-fight winning streak inside the UFC. As she aims to get back in the Octagon in early 2018, Evans-Smith is busy reflecting on what went wrong and adjusting her game to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“It’s a usual thing for intelligent fighters,” she said. “You don’t jump back into the next fight, if you’re coming off a loss, with whatever made you lose. We’re just making sure I make the right decisions in the moment.”
Overall, Evans-Smith is 2-3 in the UFC. Her wins came against Marion Reneau and Veronica Macedo, but she had lost her Octagon debut to Raquel Pennington.
“I feel like a lot of fighters, myself included, are really hard on themselves,” said the 30-year-old Evans-Smith. “When you fight for this organization, some fighters get cut after one loss, so you’re thinking just all these really bad thoughts. I’d be lying if I said, leading up to the last fight, I wasn’t worried about those things specifically.”
So, what’s her game plan now? Evans-Smith is trying to leave all the mental negativity behind her.
“I’m just going to let it go and just go in there like I used to when there was like nothing to lose,” she said.
The UFC is launching a new flyweight division for women. Plenty of fighters move to a new weight class for a fresh start, and Evans-Smith, who has thus far competed as a featherweight and bantamweight, said she’d be lying if she wasn’t toying with the idea of trying to compete at 125 pounds.
“There’s pros and cons to the situation,” she explained. “I’ve never made 125, so if I did [move down], I’d only take the fight if I did a practice cut and trained the next day and felt great. Second of all, it’s a mental thing. If I go into this new division thinking I have to go down because I’m not good enough or strong enough [at bantamweight], then I’ve already lost.
“So I think if I go try out this new division, it’s not because I want an advantage. It’s because two years ago I went vegan and my body changed. It’d be more of a healthy thing [and] not like I’m running away from the 135-pound division.”
Many fighters have had weight-cutting struggles recently. It’s to the point where it has become a serious issue. Evans-Smith, a former wrestler, takes this aspect of the fight game very seriously.
“I’ve been very professional throughout my career, even as an amateur, when it comes to making weight,” said Evans-Smith. “Especially coming from a wrestling background, it’s very embarrassing [missing weight], and I feel former wrestlers are held to a higher standard when it comes to making weight. I think if go down to 125, doing a practice cut shows how serious I take my job. That’s not just cutting weight, it’s doing what you say you’re going to do when you sign on the dotted line.”
For Evans-Smith, it’s the overwhelming support of her fans that has kept her upbeat as she looks to return from her current two-fight skid.
“I always pay attention to who contacts me after my losses,” she said. “I think it’s so much more meaningful when fans reach out and just take a couple seconds that, even though you lost, they still look up to you. So many people did that after this most recent loss — even more than the first loss. I thought my stock was going down, but the reason why I bounce back mentally and emotionally so quickly is because I was reading the comments and messages that were full of love and belief.
“The love you get from a real fan that will stick with you no matter what, that will fuel you. And my next victory will be because of the fans that gave me the love after the losses.”