UFC flyweight prospect Maycee Barber said she’s learning to “accept my reality” and “embrace the thought of this next chapter” as she recovers from a serious knee injury and loss suffered at UFC 246.
”The loss has not shifted my goals in the sport at all,” Barber wrote in a prepared statement sent to MMA Fighting by her father and coach Bucky Barber. “It has added more goals to the pre-existing ones. I’m still gonna be the youngest champion in UFC history.”
Barber, who was upset by Roxanne Modaferri at the pay-per-view event earlier this month, first needs to get healthy. The 21-year-old prospect will undergo surgery within two weeks to repair her torn left ACL. She expects rehab from the injury to take six to nine months, after which she plans to sign a bout agreement for her next opponent.
”I am hoping to make my return and fight again by the end of 2020,” Barber wrote.
As for whom she faces next, Barber is more concerned with getting well. She would like a rematch with Modaferri, who dominated her over three rounds to earn a unanimous decision. She believes they’ll meet again “at some point,” and she’ll win the rematch.
”Roxanne is a phenomenal competitor, so I don’t doubt she will still be taking care of her business,” Barber wrote. “She and I will cross again, and I’ll have the opportunity to prove to everyone what my team and myself already know.”
Barber wrote she’d never suffered a serious knee injury before the Jan. 18 fight. Initially, she felt she could fight through it when she heard her knee pop after stepping awkwardly on Modaferri’s foot in the first moments of the opening frame. She’d done the same in her previous fight against JJ Aldrich, injuring her thumb and coming back to earn a second-round TKO. It wasn’t until she stood up from her stool before the second round of her fight with Modaferri that she realized the severity of the situation.
”I realized that the muscles surrounding my knee were starting to want to protect it,” she wrote. “Round two started, and I realized the pain had gotten worse (and the) instability had gotten greater. I don’t remember a lot, but I remember being slow and seeing her jab come and wanting to step back. With that half a second extra of thinking, she caught me with the jab. I still stepped back, but my leg wasn’t there. The stability had left me.”
Barber said there were several moments where she could hear instructions from her corner and think clearly as Modaferri took her down and controlled her on the canvas. But despite her best effort, she couldn’t respond physically.
”I couldn’t connect to my brain to my leg,” she wrote.
In Barber’s estimation, the situation wasn’t helped by the medical professional tasked with ensuring her safety. She disagreed with the cageside doctor’s decision to check her knee after the second round. By doing that, she wrote, he painted a target on the injury that continued to worsen.
”I was doing everything I could to disguise the fact that I had been compromised,” she wrote. “I feel like the fact that the doctor completely gave away that I was dealing with something. It also made the injury more prominent to me when I was trying to push it out of my head for the fight. Had it been me fighting, if I would have seen the doctor stepping in and checking someone’s knee, that would instantly be the thing that I target.”
When Nevada State Athletic Commission doctor David Watson subsequently told referee Jason Herzog that Barber had suffered “a small, partial ACL tear” and was “fine” – a conversation picked up by broadcast mics – Barber didn’t fully hear the prognosis. In retrospect, she believes the doctor’s only job was to ask if she was able to continue.
”I feel as though the doctor should have come up to me and ask me if I was good, and then listened to my response,” she wrote. “I personally have never seen anyone sat down in the middle of fight and had a doctor (check) their knee stability, and then proceed to get up and announce to the ref and everyone else there was a small ACL tear and that (the fighter) was ‘fine.’ I knew something in my knee was torn and I wasn’t fine, but I knew that I could be in the fight, and then after the fight was over, I could cry and deal with it.
”There is absolutely no benefit or reason for the doctor to check me if he was going to let me continue, and there most definitely wasn’t a reason to announce the injury and let me continue knowing full well that he had just ‘shown my hand.’”
Dr. Watson was not available for comment; a contact request initiated through the NSAC did not immediately receive a reply.
Although she was effectively hobbled, Barber said her mindset never changed throughout the fight. She continued to look for opportunities to do damage and score enough points with judges to take home a decision.
”If I’m ever in true danger of permanent damage, I trust my corners to make the right decision,” she wrote. “My knee was trashed already, and I wasn’t taking serious damage otherwise. Let’s look for a way to win, there’s still time.”
In the end, Barber made it to the end of the third and final round. And while she couldn’t sway the judges, she emerged from that night with a new mission. She’d walked in to the octagon that night with a plan to get into title contention. Now, she’ll make sure she comes back with the ability to do everything she wants in the cage.
It isn’t necessarily a welcome task, but that’s the next chapter.
”This sh*t sucks,” she wrote. “What a life, and I wouldn’t go back and change a single thing. Losses happen, injuries are real, and champions overcome all. I’ll be back and better than before. This is the life I chose, and I want to live every part of it.”