If she has her druthers, Maycee Barber will stay with the UFC.
Earlier this month, Barber picked up her third win in a row, taking a unanimous decision over Jessica Eye at UFC 276. The win was the final fight of Barber’s deal with the UFC, and at only 24, Barber is a top competitor in a potentially big free agent market. However, MMA Fighting’s No. 14-ranked flyweight would need something pretty special to make her not want to re-sign with the UFC.
“Obviously, being a free agent, other people are going to reach out, so we’ll see what happens, but like I said, I grew up in the UFC and I love it,” Barber told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “It would have to be a life-changing offer from someone to be like, ‘Yeah, let’s figure something else out.’ At the same time, I feel like the UFC has treated me so well that they’re going to continue to do that. Honestly, I’m open to whatever, but I really would love to stay with the UFC and see what we can figure out together. This is such a huge career...
“They’ve treated me so well, and I feel like they’re going to continue to do that. But at the same time this is [my] career, and I’m not going to say no to everything. So we’ll see.”
Despite being just 24, Barber has already been with the UFC for four years and, as she puts it, “grew up” inside the octagon, which undoubtedly plays a factor in her desire to re-sign with the organization. Another factor is the goals she’s set for herself. When Barber signed with the UFC in 2018, she made the bold proclamation she would become the youngest champion in promotional history, beating Jon Jones’ record. Barber fell short of that goal, but now “The Future” has her sights set on a different record.
“For me, it’s not just going to be this one and done thing,” she said. “I set the goal for Jon Jones’ record because I wanted something for myself to work toward, and I don’t want to set small goals and just bust them over. I want to set big goals and chase those goals, and then if I don’t reach them, at least I was chasing something big. With that, it’s also something for people to follow along with. I might not beat Jon Jones’ record – obviously I passed that time. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be the youngest female champion in the UFC.”
Rose Namajunas currently holds the record for youngest female champion in UFC history at 25 years, 4 months, and 6 days. For Barber to beat that record, she’ll need to claim a UFC belt before Sep. 24, 2023. And Barber believes that’s possible, though she acknowledges it will be difficult.
“1-2 years [until a get a title shot],” she said. “I say 1-2 years, and that’s not as many fights. I think 2-3 fights, but at the same time, I’m going to give myself that 1-2 years to improve. But honestly, if they gave me the title fight tomorrow, I know and I truly believe in myself that I can win the title. So I’m always going to go for that, but at the same time, let’s be realistic. There’s places in my game that can improve. There’s places in my wrestling and my striking that can be better, and I want to make sure that I’m fully prepared for that.”
Of course, the biggest obstacle to Barber’s title hopes is the current champion, Valentina Shevchenko. Shevchenko is undefeated at flyweight, with seven title defenses to her name, and she’s the No. 1 pound-for-pound female fighter on the planet. But after her last performance, a split decision over Taila Santos at UFC 275, some, including Barber herself, believe Shevchenko is more vulnerable than ever before. And when she does get her title shot, Barber believes “The Future” will finally arrive.
“The only person I think could beat her is Taila Santos,” Barber said. “Honestly, I haven’t seen anyone else emerge or be that great. ... It’s going to take someone truly special, and I honestly felt like Taila could have done it, and if not, then I see myself doing it.”