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Maycee Barber’s vow to Dana White: I’ll be ‘as big, if not bigger’ than Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Conor. Ronda. GSP. Brock. Bones.

The biggest stars in UFC history are known quickly by one name or even a few letters strung together. There’s now a budding prospect who wants to add another moniker to that prestigious list: Maycee.

Maycee Barber is a 20-year-old uber prospect. And after a violent finish of Hannah Cifers in her UFC debut back in November, she pulled UFC president Dana White aside and boldly told him of her plans.

“I told him that I was gonna be as big, if not bigger than Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey and all of the stars he has,” Barber told MMA Fighting. “And I am one of his next big stars. There aren’t very many right now, especially females. And I fit that perfectly. Just in terms of the person I want to portray in terms of the sport, I feel like I could fill that.”

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Barber (6-0) has a countdown on her phone down to the second until she turns the same age Jon Jones did — 23 years old, eight months — when he became the youngest champion in UFC history. Barber’s first goal is to break that record set by “Bones.”

That’s just one of many aspirations Barber has in MMA, the sport she decided she would get into before the age of 16. Next up, Barber faces J.J. Aldrich in a flyweight bout at UFC Nashville on March 23.

Barber, a Colorado native, began training in karate at the age of 3. Her parents opened up their own karate and Brazilian jiu-jitsu academy in Fort Collins in 2010. As a youth, Barber tried just about every discipline that encompasses MMA, from Brazilian jiu-jitsu to judo to boxing to wresting to Muay Thai.

As a young teen, she made the choice that she was not going to college, instead just concentrating on a mixed martial arts career after high school.

“I decided that I knew exactly what I was gonna do with my life and my career in terms of martial arts,” Barber said. “Either I was gonna fight or if fighting wasn’t gonna work out for me — which if I put my mind to something, it usually works out — that was what my life was going to be, martial arts. I don’t need a college degree, because I already had all the education I needed and I was continuing the education. That’s what I wanted to do with my life.”

Barber is now doing it. She’s been a professional since 2017, debuting about a month after her 19th birthday. Barber has won all but one of her pro fights by finish. That is not by accident, she said. Barber seemed to take an odd joy out of drawing blood on Cifers in her UFC debut.

“They fight to not lose,” Barber said of other fighters. “I don’t fight to not lose. I fight to win. That’s like the only way there is to fight. If you’re not gonna fight to win, fight to kill, then what are you doing?”

Those are the kinds of words that White loves to hear. Barber said when she told White that she wanted to be on the same level or bigger than McGregor and Rousey, White “believed in me.” The key, she said, is to do everything that needs to be done outside the cage, as well as inside of it, to make herself a star of that kind of visibility.

“I hear a lot of people complaining about how much they hate interviews or how much they dread taking pictures,” Barber said. “But I mean, that’s the sport we chose. That’s what comes with it. And if you want to be successful in something, you have to be all in. You’ve gotta just learn to enjoy life just the way it is. And enjoy every little bit of it.

“Maybe you don’t want to do an interview all the time, but that’s what people want to see. They don’t want to see someone come in and have no personality and have no story behind them. They want to see a person with a story and someone they can relate to. And then they want to see them fight. I feel like building all of that and giving someone a person to relate with is what is necessary. And I’m more than happy to do that. It’s gonna benefit me, it’s gonna benefit the promotion, it’s gonna benefit everyone who is watching. It’s just all around what needs to happen and what’s good for my career.”

Barber is not the kind of fighter who just wants to get in the cage and win. She understands, better than some do who are considerably older, that it’s not just about victories that make someone a bigger star. Barber realizes that there are fighters who have achieved greatness, but have not reached the heights that athletes like McGregor and Rousey have. She doesn’t want to settle for anything less than the latter.

“I don’t know,” Barber said. “That’s just the way I was raised. You just want to give it everything you have. That’s part of it. If you’re gonna do something, you might as well be the best, right?

“Conor McGregor did it right. If he’s gonna fight, if he’s gonna be a public figure, he might as well be the best one he can possibly be. And he’s doing it, right? Why would I be any different?”

Barber said she studies all the top fighters in each division, taking note of the things they do well and the things they don’t. She’s been preparing for this for a very long time and has done her homework.

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Before she even is able to drink alcohol legally in the United States, Barber feels like she has a blueprint and, more than anything the will, to become one of the sport’s all-time superstars. And no one will be able to tell her differently.

“It’s not necessarily what you do, it’s what you don’t do,” Barber said. “There’s a lot of different pieces that I think go into that. It’s looking at who wants to watch a fight. I want to be the kind of person that a whole family can sit down and cheer for. I don’t want to be the fighter that talks terribly and has to put on this fake show. I just want to be myself and I want to fight. I’m just gonna work hard and be myself, honestly. I feel like that’s what people want to see — they want to see someone who is real. I think that’s enough. We’ll figure it out as we go, but so far it’s been pretty good.”

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