As Aspen Ladd endured her most recent weight cut for her UFC Vegas 60 fight against Sara McMann, she realized her days competing at 135 pounds were over.
While she had previously missed on the scale and even had bouts canceled over concerns about her health, the 27-year-old fighter desperately tried to get down to 135 pounds. But her body finally put a stop to it.
“It was particularly s***** just because it never should have happened,” Ladd said about her recent weight cut on The MMA Hour. “I started extremely low and just stopped sweating.
“Ended up roasting for another six hours without sweating anymore, and during that process, it’s like never again.”
According to Ladd, she wasn’t trying to cut an extreme amount of weight when fight week started. But despite her best efforts, her body shut down after she hit 138 pounds on the scale.
That disastrous weight cut, combined with so many previous horrific experiences, made Ladd finally realize the only way she could continue fighting was to move to a bigger and more natural division.
“The level of the pain, and the stuff that I’ve gone through after from doing these cuts – and even when you do everything right, you’re as lean as you can be, and you diet 10 months out of the year – it’s just my whole life is focused on staying small enough,” Ladd said.
“I don’t know for how many of the others [bantamweights] that’s true or fighters in general, but honestly it was just the last straw for me. I’m done living my entire life trying to stay small enough and then feeling this awful and then having to recover from that physically.”
Just days after her fight with McMann was scrapped, the UFC released Ladd from her contract with the promotion.
It was a dubious end to the relationship considering Ladd was once touted as a future contender in the bantamweight division. But she said there was no way to move forward with the UFC because she planned a move up to 145 pounds.
“Because I clearly cannot make that weight at 135, at least not consistently without dying,” Ladd said. “I needed to make the move up, and they don’t have an opportunity at 145. They have the weight class, but honestly, if you’re a 145er in the UFC, I would recommend if you can go down, do it , and if not, look at your options. It was time to look at mine.
“It was kind of both parties knew this was the last straw. Because if you’re only given this singular option, and I just can’t do it – after this last cut, I’m not trying again. When you’re told that’s not there, well, then we need to figure out something else.”
Ladd said she approached the UFC about competing at 145 pounds on a more regular basis, but the organization wasn’t interested in building the featherweight division beyond the title currently held by Amanda Nunes.
“The 145 thing was always on the table, or we presented it, like, ‘Hey, I want to do this,’ but it’s just not where their focus is,” Ladd said. “As the years have gone on, they’ve really made a push for it, but now, it’s dying off. You try to go where the opportunity is. It was pretty much 135 [pounds] or nothing.”
Despite the fact that she was not able to commit to a healthier weight class, Ladd holds no ill will towards the UFC for her release. Even though he’s no longer her boss, she praises UFC President Dana White.
“I have nothing but gratitude for my time I was there,” Ladd said about the UFC. “Some people with the organization are amazing, and there’s a couple that aren’t, but that’s the same for anything, anywhere. Nothing but gratitude.
“As far as Dana goes, I have nothing but respect for the guy. I think he gets s*** on a lot in the media, and it’s really not warranted, especially in the last couple of years where the world shut down and we still had the opportunity to fight.”
It didn’t take long for Ladd to find a new fighting home. She received multiple offers and had conversations with Bellator MMA, among others. But in the end, she decided to ink a deal with the PFL because the promotion plans to launch a featherweight division in 2023. That will finally give her the chance to compete on a more regular basis.
“[It’s been] a rollercoaster of emotions,” Ladd said. “Initially there’s that what’s going to happen now kind of thing, but since then initial parting of the ways with the UFC type thing, nothing but positivity has happened. Nothing but good things.
“Now, I’m just on top of the world. I couldn’t be happier with how things are going.”