This week, Ashlee Evans-Smith should have been talking about how her fight with Molly McCann went.
Win, lose, or draw, Evans-Smith would have a war story to tell and a fight check in her pocket. Instead, following the cancellation of UFC London due to concerns regarding the coronavirus, she finds herself with more questions than answers.
Evans-Smith appeared as a guest on MMA Fighting’s A-Side live chat and she opened up about her experience flying to London only to be told that her fight was being moved and eventually postponed indefinitely. As a result, Evans-Smith has not received any pay for the matchup that she’s been preparing for since it was announced in December, and she’s not sure if she should expect it since news of the event changes happened before the usual fight week obligations took place.
“I haven’t heard anything from the UFC and the UFC as much money as they have, they’re not giving out money left and right for nothing,” Evans-Smith said. “I know the [Bellator 241] fighters that got compensated, they weighed in and I’m just really hoping that the UFC doesn’t do some trickery and say, ‘Oh, well you didn’t make weight or you didn’t weigh in.’ I’m not saying they’re gonna do that, but I’m also not gonna get my hopes up.
“I think we deserve that money to say the least. I, personally, was going to go over there and risk my personal health. I was willing to risk getting quarantined to fight, to perform, to do my job for them. So I really hope that they compensate us.”
Several of the UFC London bouts were moved to Friday’s Cage Warriors 113 show (which, as of this writing, is still scheduled to take place after being moved to a venue in Manchester, England), but Evans-Smith’s bout was not one of them.
“I would have done that in a heartbeat,” she said.
As it was, Evans-Smith was in limbo for almost as soon as she arrived in London as news of the coronavirus outbreak continued to shake the world. She watched the UFC Brasilia card and then went to bed as early as possible to adjust to time zone differences. She woke up to a phone call telling her to come down to the lobby where she was told that the fight was postponed and that she would need to fly back to the United States immediately.
In transit, Evans-Smith recorded an Instagram story to give fans an update on the status of her fight and that’s how McCann found out about the news too.
“While I was driving—this is kind of sad—but I was driving to the airport and I see my opponent has posted a video and someone tagged me, and she was saying that she just watched my story on Instagram and that’s how she found out,” Evans-Smith said. “So the UFC didn’t even contact her, so I though it would be nice of me to contact my opponent and say, ‘Look, I hear you don’t know anything. I’m gonna tell you what I know. That’s the least I can do. I think you deserve to know what I know.’ And she was like, ‘Thanks, mate.’
“She’s a cool girl. We talk back and forth about how crappy this is. We both still want to fight each other. It’s sportsmanship. We will fight someday, but in the meantime let’s get healthy and safe and get paid for the work that we put in so far.”
The suggestion of a possible relocation for their fight didn’t reach Evans-Smith until she was already at the airport for a return flight. And after she’d already abandoned her diet.
It was then that her manager called telling her that they were considering moving the fight to Los Angeles or Las Vegas, leading to much frustration for Evans-Smith.
“I’m on the flight, I’m literally about to take off and my manager is like, ‘Just stay ready,’” Evans-Smith said. “And I’m like, ‘Ready like don’t eat?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, they might reschedule the fight in California.’
“Are you serious? I’m already eating and he’s like, ‘We might do a catchweight. So just don’t worry, don’t stress.’ I’m like, that’s like saying f*cking don’t breathe right now. Don’t stress? Don’t stress? You don’t know where I’m gonna fight, where I’m gonna fight, maybe I fight Saturday. So yeah there was talk, but it was so ridiculous. We didn’t know if the world was shutting down.”
Having made it home, Evans-Smith can still recall the turmoil she was dealing with over past few days dealing with all of that uncertainty. But as more updates on the coronavirus crisis emerge, she’s keeping things in perspective.
“It was a roller coaster of emotions because going over there I didn’t know I didn’t know what to expect,” Evans-Smith said. “I didn’t know if I was going to fight. I didn’t know if I was going to get quarantined. Still cutting weight—and I’m a big girl for 125—I’m hangry at this point, like, ‘What the hell is going on in the world?’ I was on the plane crying because, I don’t know, I’m a girl, I’m emotional. I love my sport. I wanted to compete. I need to make money, put food on the table, all that.
“But now it’s like, take a breath, and I realize this whole thing is so much bigger than me and my fight in the sport. Worldwide, people are dying. Yeah, I was upset at the time, but I’m just trying to be grateful that I’m healthy, no one I know is sick, knock on wood.”