Aspen Ladd is well aware of the criticism her head coach and partner Jim West has received during Ladd’s recent octagon appearance, and she’s giving her perspective on the situation.
Ladd returned to competition for the first time since December 2019 when she faced Norma Dumont in the featherweight main event at October’s UFC Vegas 40 event. Throughout the fight, Ladd couldn’t get going and was “overthinking” everything. Between rounds, West was shown in the corner giving Ladd some tough love which certainly got the attention of the MMA community on social media.
Now that the dust has settled, Ladd’s opinion on the reaction to West’s cornering remains the same as it did on fight night: it was blown out of proportion.
“I’ve heard far worse,” Ladd told MMA Fighting. “I wasn’t performing. I wasn’t competing as I should’ve been at that point. But that’s something that’s an individual thing and, not only that, I think the reason people are attached to that so much is, honestly, if I was a dude they wouldn’t have cared.
“If there wasn’t the other relationship there, they wouldn’t have cared. That got a lot of undo attention, and no, I don’t think there was anything wrong with it.”
While Tate’s heart may have been in the right place to some extent due to her past relationship with former partner and head coach Bryan Caraway, Ladd doesn’t understand why the recently returned fighter decided to pass judgement on her in such a public way.
“I think she looks at the world through the lens of her own experiences,” Ladd said. “I mean, we all do. I think she had a very, very negative experience with her past relationship and it became very public for a while. She was with a coach for a very long time and there was a lot of he said, she said going on there. And who knows? I don’t know.
“I can’t speak on her personal life because I’m not aware. She chose to speak on mine. [Miesha’s] was very public and very bad, and whether she did wrong or he did wrong — they probably both did — it’s how she views the world now. So she’s relating her experiences to what I’m going through and it’s not even in the same realm.”
Ladd revealed to MMA Fighting that the UFC is interested in booking her return to 135 against Tate sometime in the first half of 2022, and that Ladd has accepted the bout. At the time of the interview, she was still awaiting on a response from Tate and her team in regards to whether or not the bout will move forward for the targeted, and unknown date — although Ladd would be happy to wait to some extent to get that matchup.
Tate has not only returned to active UFC competition following a brief retirement, she has also entered the media space, co-hosting a show on Sirius XM with former WWE broadcaster Renee Paquette. When asked if she understood Tate’s additional role in the sport — which includes giving her opinions about storylines in MMA — Ladd believes there’s certain lines that shouldn’t be crossed, unless you’re prepared to back up what you say inside the octagon.
“I thought it was unfair and not that well considered,” Ladd stated. “It’s not just that; she tends to comment on when other people are a little bit down and I’m not a fan of that style of being a person.
“She’s trying to get views. It’s the world that we’re living in now, and media, social media, all of it, it’s like, ‘Well look at me.’ She’s trying to do something to garner that, and that’s totally fine, especially when it’s someone you want to fight — as long as they back up what they’re saying.”
While it’s not out of the realm of possibility for a coach-fighter relationship to have a happy ending, it doesn’t happen all that often. There are few examples of success, which Ladd believes she has found with West.
Making it work takes a lot of effort like most relationships, but finding balance between the working and personal relationships is the key, according to the 26-year-old competitor.
“I think it really depends, and I feel like I’ve seen other successful coach-athlete relationships, but it’s hard to say... and then there’s the extremely unsuccessful ones and notoriously so,” Ladd explained. “With us, we compartmentalize. There’s different things: there’s training, and then there’s the relationship, and he’s better at it than I am.
“But you kind of have to put it aside when you’re in the mode of work, when you’re in training, and then get back to everything else later. Does it bleed over? Yes. But when you’ve been together so long and you’ve been working through issues like that, you’re kind of used to it. Is it a problem every now and again? Sure, but it’s something we’re used to working with.
“And when you’re in the same sport, you’re going to have different views with you’re doing, so you’re going to have to converse about that and figure it out.”