While certainly not a good look when it happened, Aspen Ladd’s weight miss for UFC Fight Night 210 in September may have been a blessing in disguise.
Ladd (9-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) was released by the UFC in the days after she failed to make the women’s bantamweight limit for a fight against Sara McMann. It was the third time Ladd missed weight in the UFC, and the bout was canceled. Not long after, Ladd’s UFC career was scrapped, too.
But it didn’t take the 27-year-old long to get back on her feet. Earlier this week, the PFL announced Ladd had signed. She’s expected to be part of a 145-pound women’s season in 2023.
Ladd’s longtime coach Jim West, of the MMA Gold team in California, said all the major promotions, including Bellator and ONE Championship, were in the running for Ladd’s services. But ultimately, the PFL was the one that fit the bill for the next phase of her career.
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“She’s ecstatic – super happy, and she’s very blessed,” West told MMA Junkie Radio. “She acknowledges the platform that she had at the UFC. She’s very honored to be as successful as she was in the UFC. Aspen’s in her prime. It’s funny because she’s one of the only, if not the only, athlete to have fought a ranked opponent in every UFC fight. Most people don’t know that. But (she was) very blessed to be in the UFC.
“Things didn’t work out, and that’s all right. Now she’s moving on to another wonderful opportunity with PFL giving her a platform – essentially the same platform on ESPN – (and) a wonderful show. They’ve been nothing but great to work with. The UFC was (great to work with). PFL now is. And now she gets to be at the weight she’s always wanted to be at, anyway.”
West said Ladd’s true weight class is 145 pounds, but was fighting at 135 in the UFC because there were more opportunities there.
Ladd fought at women’s featherweight just once in the UFC – a loss to Norma Dumont nearly a year ago. That fight came a couple weeks after Ladd missed weight for a bantamweight fight against Macy Chiasson and the bout was canceled for health concerns stemming from her weight cut. But she was right back to bantamweight earlier this year.
West said even though the UFC has a women’s featherweight division with Amanda Nunes as its champion, the reality is the promotion isn’t actively matchmaking women’s fights at 145 pounds.
“There is no 145-pound weight class – let’s be clear – in the UFC,” West said. “I know that. You know how we all know people behind the scenes – we all know our go-to people in whatever we’re doing? So there is no real 145-pound weight class. The only reason that class is there is because Amanda has the belt. We know for a fact that weight class, as soon as Amanda is done, will no longer exist.
“So there’s really not a lot of opportunity there, right? So you fight at the weight class that they actually have. Was there some random times where maybe you could’ve fought there? Sure, yeah – maybe you’re going to fight a girl who’s really ’35 and you’re going to fight at ’45 or whatever. But there’s no real opportunity there at 145.
“Even in the rankings, they don’t even have a ranking for (women’s) 145. I don’t know if the UFC even wants it. I think they initially wanted it when they had (Cris) Cyborg, but as soon as Cyborg lost, they got rid of her. They cut Meagan Anderson, Felicia Spencer retired. There is no real opportunity there. Aspen missed her weight and they cut her. That’s fine. They had to do what they had to do. But fighting at 145 for Aspen as an opportunity, as a career in the UFC – it wasn’t there.”
So far, the PFL has just had a women’s lightweight division in its season format, and that division has been ruled by Kayla Harrison. Harrison is favored to win her third $1 million PFL season title when she fights Larissa Pacheco in the final in November in New York.
But Harrison has said she likely is done fighting the season and playoff tournament format with PFL, which she re-signed with earlier this year after exploring free agency. She expects to be involved in pay-per-view type fights, and that could open the door for a potential bout against Ladd.
Check out West’s full conversation with MMA Junkie Radio below.