‘Meatball’ Molly McCann cannot be contained. After knocking out Hannah ‘24k’ Goldy at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday, two security guards tried to block the Liverpudlian’s path as she embarked on her signature jump into the crowd. But the lovable flyweight star was having none of it, evading their grasp with a turn of pace that would probably get her into the starting eleven of her beloved Everton. The incident was the rise of McCann in microcosm. The 32-year-old cannot be stopped.
‘Meatball’ is English MMA’s first true female superstar. She is the first woman from England to claim a UFC victory, beating Priscila Cachoeira in 2019. For the first time, fans from this country have seen a female fighter rise to mainstream prominence, joining names like her close friend Paddy Pimblett, Tom Aspinall and Arnold Allen among the finest domestic fighters in the company.
As well as doing her country proud, McCann is also a proud representative of another community. ‘Meatball’ is openly-gay and speaks brilliantly on the tribulations of LGBTQ+ people in sport. MMA is slightly ahead of other sports on the female side, with fighters such as UFC Featherweight Champion Amanda Nunes blazing a trail for queer fighters. McCann is very much at the forefront of that movement.
What is particularly heartening is the way she has been embraced for who she is. The proud Scouser is a brilliant fighter and an unapologetic advocate for what she believes in. Whether that is fighting for better treatment for the LGBTQ+ community, the support she has thrown behind the JFT97 campaign surrounding Hillsborough or leading a chant of “F**k the Tories” after her crushing victory. What you see is what you get with Molly McCann and what you get is a fighter with an admirable conscience and a powerful voice.
Of course her platform would not be as big if she couldn’t back it up in the cage. But ‘Meatball’ is in the form of her life. Her spinning back elbow knockout of Goldy saw McCann become just the second fighter to secure multiple spinning back elbow stoppages in UFC history, with Ricardo Ramos being the first. McCann is riding a three fight winning streak, having felled Luana Carolina with said elbow in her last bout and won a decision over Ji Yeon Kim in a Fight of the Night-winning bout.
This dizzying peak of performance is even more impressive given how McCann’s UFC prospects looked as recently as February 2021. ‘Meatball’ suffered back-to-back defeats to Taila Santos and Lara Procopio, and another defeat would have risked seeing her cut from the company. Her UFC record stood at 3-3, and fans and pundits feared the jump from Cage Warriors, where she had reigned as Flyweight Champion, had been too great.
But Molly has made a mockery of that talk with three brilliant wins and some incredibly entertaining moments. On Saturday she made viral headlines not only for her knockout, but for her hilarious attempts to land a takedown on rap superstar Stormzy, who was in attendance.
McCann is beginning to ascend into the mainstream, mixing with music icons as seamlessly as she mixes with her opponents in the cage. Whether you see her as the lethal firecracker lighting up the cage, the socially-conscious gay athlete committed to helping others or just simply ‘Meatball’, there are few more intriguing modern athletes than Molly McCann.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change