After being sidelined for 20 months following surgery on a pair of torn knee ligaments, Aspen Ladd isn’t hoping for an easy night at the office in Saturday night’s return at UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas. The rising bantamweight contender, like most of the fans watching at home, would somewhat surprisingly prefer to be in a war.
Ladd (9-1), who was forced to withdraw from a scheduled 2020 fight against Sara McMann when her foot got stuck in the cage while being taken down during a sparring session and tearing her knee, will take on Macy Chiasson (7-1) in the co-main event inside the UFC Apex.
“From what I’ve seen in her previous fights, she’s willing to engage everywhere so this could be a little bit of a brawl,” Ladd told “Morning Kombat” on Wednesday. “This could be a little of an everything fight — ground, punch standing. She doesn’t seem like she ever wants to do one thing and that’s my favorite kind of fight so bring it. It’s awesome.
“When they give me two opponents and I know how each of them fight, I will go with the one who wants to go out there and brawl. It’s better for both of us.”
Asked to clarify her statement, the 26-year-old native of California explained that it’s her love to entertain that fuels her all-action style.
“People are not here to see a boring decision win. They are not here to see a, ‘Oh, I kinda, sorta want to spar with this girl.’ They want to see blood, they want to see people fight, they want to see a brawl,” Ladd said. “When you can pull out that kind of fight — besides the fact that sometimes you can get a bonus out of it — it’s better for everybody. If you want to engage and you want to go to war, that’s what the people want to see.”
Ladd rebounded nicely from her lone pro defeat in 2019 against Germaine de Randamie — when she succumbed to strikes in just 16 seconds following a quick referee stoppage – to finish Yana Kunitskaya via ground and pound in Round 3 just six months later. But the injury she suffered immediately after left her in somewhat of an out of site, out of mind position within the larger title picture.
While two-division champion Amanda Nunes continues to rule ever so dominantly atop the 135-pound rankings, Ladd’s time away from the division has seen it reload just a bit. While the top 10 isn’t necessarily deep, it is top heavy as Ladd is expected to join perennial contenders Holly Holm, de Randamie and a returning former champion in Miesha Tate as potential options for Nunes — who returns on Aug. 7 against Julianna Pena — in the near future should she defeat Chiasson.
Despite the realities of her situation given that a victory should land her a big fight next, Ladd refused to look past Chiasson, saying that every time she has a fight, “that sign the end of the road. There is nothing beyond it and nothing exists until after Saturday night.”
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In the meantime, Ladd is just happy to quite literally be back on her feet after such a devastating injury. An avid hiker in her spare time, Ladd admits she was forced to endure as much of a challenge mentally in recovering from losing her ability to walk following the injury as it was demanding on a physical level.
“It goes beyond the fight,” Ladd said. “Fighting is my life, it’s what I do and what I love. But when you take it out to that level where you can’t walk or move, and you have to relearn how to walk. For everything I do outside of fighting, it’s very active. It takes it to the next level where you need to be mobile for you to live and for your job and I couldn’t do either one.”