“When I think about walking out in my last fight at the Echo Arena, not many Evertonians knew who I was.”
It may be the same ring walk, in the same arena, on the same promotion for Evertonian Molly 'Meatball' McCann on Saturday, but it many ways it couldn’t be more different to her previous fight back in April.
The mixed martial artist, based out of the Next Generation MMA gym in the city, appeared on Cage Warriors 82 back in April, recording an unanimous points win over the vastly experienced and durable American Lacey Schuckman just weeks after the passing of her cousin.
For her to even compete - let alone win - gained her an army of new fans, many of them fellow Blues, and so Saturday sees her head back to the Echo for another opportunity to show why she is already being coveted by the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The support she has received from Evertonians in the build up has been overwhelming for the 27-year-old Scouser.
“It will mean a lot to walk out in front of them,” she told evertonfc.com
. “Last time, there weren’t many who knew who I was. But my stock has gone up this time around and I have had a lot more of a following, especially on social media.
“My last fight against Schuckman proved that I can get thrown into the deep end and swim. I was in every bad position you could put me in in but I overcame it. I think the city fell in love with me after that. I get a lot more people coming up to me shouting, ‘Meatball, Meatball!’. They do love their boxing in Liverpool so being a decent striker has probably helped them take to me.
“A lot of Evertonians have got behind me. The Club tweeted about me the other day and the amount of positive replies was overwhelming. There were one or two negative ones and the Evertonians just jumped all over them! It’s boss how we are this family and even now when I go the match or I’m walking down the street, people associate me with Everton.
“People think fighting and performing is a right. It is not, it is a privilege. When you are able to fight in front of a crowd that is right behind you, and I think Evertonians have got behind me like those in Manchester got behind Ricky Hatton, it is an absolute privilege.”
McCann, still only 5-1-0 as a professional, faces Brazilian Priscila de Souza at Cage Warriors 88, looking to make another statement as she closes in on a world title shot under the promotion’s banner.
De Souza has mixed with some of the leading contenders in the 125lbs flyweight division but McCann remains confident she can maintain her four-fight winning streak.
“Her last fight was against the number one seed in my weight in the UFC,” she added. “So she has fought some high calibre opponents. But Cage Warriors keep giving me opportunities to prove that I am on a whole different level and that I am the best in the world.
“If I were her, I would be looking to drive me to the fence and take me down. I’d expect most people to do that. But we have been working tirelessly to bring my jiu jitsu up to elite level in order to combat that and I have been subbing purple and brown belts in camp. I’m really happy with how this camp has gone and the progress I’ve made. I feel comfortable I can go into any position in the fight and know how to cope.”
So while all eyes are on Saturday, McCann’s love of Everton is never too far away. Just days after the fight, she will be on the road to Lyon to cheer on David Unsworth’s charges in the Europa League.
“I’m going with my best friend and there’s a couple of coaches going, so it’s going to be a good one,” she concluded. “It’s a chance to just let my hair down after a long hard camp, eat some good French food, and just sing to my heart’s content.
“Let’s hope the boys do the business because, if not, I’ll be getting them down the gym for a few rounds of sparring!”