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Matt Brown argues public ‘overreacting’ to Aspen Ladd head coach: ‘Poor cornering,’ but ‘I don’t think he was being abusive’

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UFC Fight Night: Ladd v Dumont Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Matt Brown has issues with the way Jim West offered advice to Aspen Ladd during her fight at UFC Vegas 40, but not in the way most might suspect.

The main event ended with Ladd dropping a unanimous decision to Norma Dumont. Perhaps the biggest storyline afterward was the way West, Ladd’s coach and boyfriend, spoke to his fighter between rounds. At one point, he bluntly told Ladd, “Please tell me what you’re doing … you have to get into the f*cking fight.”

There were a wide variety of reactions to the language, including former UFC champion Miesha Tate calling West’s behavior “abuse.”

For his part, Brown understands the dynamic between West and Ladd is different than just the typical coach and fighter interaction, but he still doesn’t agree with the idea that what was being said in her corner was abusive.

“I think it’s pretty complicated to start off with, especially being that they’re boyfriend-girlfriend,” Brown said while co-hosting The Fighter vs. The Writer. “It makes the situation already more complicated than just a simple coach-athlete relationship. But I do think people are overreacting. In between the fourth and fifth round, I didn’t like where he was kind of saying, ‘What are you doing?’ Stuff like that. That’s certainly not helping anything, but I think he knows that, too.

“I don’t think Miesha Tate was right in saying that it was abuse. I don’t think he was being abusive. I wouldn’t go that far. To be honest, I think that he was trying and just didn’t know what to say and his default was to get angry about it.”

While Brown doesn’t believe West crossed the line with the way he was speaking to Ladd, he also can’t see how anything said in those later rounds was actually helping to prepare her to stage a comeback either.

Of course, Brown would likely share the same criticism for many coaches across MMA when it comes to the advice being handed out in the corner between rounds.

“The only thing I would say, he did not need to berate her,” Brown explained. “There’s no time in coaching history where that’s going to get your athlete moving. I mean like putting her down saying, ‘What are you doing?’ Things like that. But that’s also coming from me who has been doing this a very long time, been in many corners, seen how people have reacted, and I’ve probably said those things before. But I also know you’re trying to get her to start being more active and start doing certain things. Asking her what she’s doing is not going to accomplish that. Period.

“It doesn’t really matter who you are. So I wouldn’t necessarily say I agree with him, but honestly I could look at 9 out of 10 corners and say I don’t know why they’re saying that or why they’re saying it the way that they are and say the exact same things that I would say about Jim West’s cornering.”

According to Brown, the environment of this past Saturday’s fault may have accentuated what was a pretty common occurrence in the corners of MMA fighters.

“I don’t necessarily fault him and I don’t think it’s a unique thing,” Brown said. “He was a little more animated than a lot of people, and obviously they’re in the APEX so you can hear it very, very clearly and loudly. It’s very prominent right there in your face. Then of course you get the breakdown on BT Sport, where you hear everything from beginning to end. I think he added a lot more to the conversation.

“I wouldn’t want someone coaching me like that. I highly doubt that’s what she needed, but again, I think I would just kind of end it that it’s no worse than most of the corners I see. I don’t know why people want to single out this one or call it abuse. It’s certainly nothing like that.”

As a coach himself, Brown really likes to study what his fighters need beyond just technical advice because he’s a big believer in the psychology needed to find success in each and every round.

He didn’t really hear that being addressed when West was speaking to Ladd but then again, Brown could file that same complaint against a lot of coaches working in MMA.

“I feel like the majority of corners, they don’t really study psychology or how to corner,” Brown said. “Motivation and things like that. How to speak, how to use verbal cues. A lot of them are just fly by the seat of their pants.

“Regardless of the athlete, if the first thing that you’re saying is, ‘what are you doing out there,’ you’re immediately bringing the athlete down negatively. Regardless of what they’re doing or who the athlete is. I don’t think that’s going to be a positive thing to add into the conversation. I would call it poor cornering but no worse than the vast majority that you see out there.”

The biggest grievance that Brown had with the reaction to West’s cornering was the lack of attention being paid to the good work that Dumont was doing throughout the fight. The Brazilian featherweight was constantly popping Ladd with her lead jab and using a basic 1-2 combination repeatedly to manage the fight round after round.

“The one thing that [Jim West] didn’t respect, it was partially about what Aspen Ladd was not able to do but a huge part was about what Norma Dumont was able to do and that’s the whole part a lot of people are missing,” Brown said. “She performed really, really good and you can’t take that away from her.

“Aspen had very few answers for anything Norma was doing, and the answers that her coach gave her, even in the earlier rounds when he was giving the more technical advice, probably wasn’t going to change even if Aspen would have followed it to a tee. It probably wouldn’t have changed what was happening. Norma was too good for her.”