When Maycee Barber signed with the UFC, she immediately set a goal for herself to become the youngest champion in the history of the promotion.
Those might have seemed like lofty ambitions but Barber was nothing if not focused on achieving her dreams after earning her contract and immediately getting the attention of UFC president Dana White.
Unfortunately, the bottom fell out on Barber just over a year ago when she tasted defeat for the first time in her career in a fight against Roxanne Modafferi but the sting of the loss was compounded by a torn ACL in her knee. Following reconstructive surgery, Barber is now booked for her return at UFC 258 but it’s unlikely she will have the chance to become the youngest champion in company history with just over 300 days remaining until she surpasses Jon Jones’ mark when he claimed the light heavyweight title back in 2011.
Still, Barber is undeterred when it comes to long term goals in the sport because she sees the knee injury as just one small chapter in a much bigger story that’s still being written.
“I always want to set high expectations,” Barber said during the UFC 258 media day. “I’m never going to shoot and aim low and set low goals. That’s not something I’m ever going to do because it’s not satisfying. I want to aim big. I want to go for big things because for me, the bigger the goal and the bigger the dream, the higher the reward.
“The more I can push, I want to push. I want to grind and I want to grow to be the best that I can. I want to shoot for big things. The goal and the ambition is still there even from when I started and signed with the UFC.”
Obviously no fighter wants to deal with a loss much less a serious surgery like the one Barber had to repair her injured knee.
That said, Barber put full faith in her doctors to get through the surgery and then the physical therapists tasked with putting her back at full health in order to compete again.
Barber also had one other factor at work that helped her get past the knee injury without too much difficulty.
“For me, I feel like I had the best surgeon in the world. I had the best therapy in the world. I had a great team behind me and on top of that, I’m 22,” Barber said. “I feel like overall for me to have such a serious injury, it was a blessing that it came at such an early time in my career. Because I have the youth on my side to be able to heal and I had the best team in the world to help me.
“So I do actually feel like a better fighter and a better athlete and I feel like my movement and everything is stronger through the injury, just because of how much recovery and how much focus we were able to put on training my legs and making sure everything was strong and ready to go.”
For her first fight back, Barber will face Alexa Grasso in the co-main event at UFC 258, which presents her with a unique opportunity.
The size of the stage will allow Barber to reintroduce herself to the flyweight division while sending a message to everybody competing at 125 pounds that “The Future” is now.
“This is a huge fight, especially being a co-main event against a tough opponent,” Barber said. “I’m coming off an injury. I’m coming off a loss. So a lot of things are going to be huge and really good and really big when I win.
“I’m super excited to be able to show all the flyweights that I’m still here and I’m still coming and I know that I don’t have to show them because they already know.”