Tonight at the Echo Arena in Liverpool will host a night of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), a sport that has become increasingly popular on both the men’s and women’s side with names like Ronda Rousey some of the most famous in women’s sport.
But one woman from Liverpool has a shot at experienced Brazilian fighter Priscila de Souza in her home town, as she looks to gain one step closer to a championship title bout. But what some might not know is, she used to play for Liverpool Ladies.
Molly McCann, an Everton fan for both the men’s and women’s teams, was with the Reds as a youngster between 2006 and 2010, joining the club as a 16-year-old after her GCSEs.
“I remember going to the club for trials at the Centre of Excellence and getting in,” she said.
“My first two seasons were with the reserves and I have nothing but fond memories of my time playing there.”
McCann remembers the hard working nature of her side and said there were “no slackers,” adding it meant the world to play for the club, “even for the Evertonians.”
Liverpool born and bred, McCann said being in such a professional environment and with such a good coach, Graham Hurst, was the first step on the ladder to taming “the wild child” inside her.
“I was quite wild when I came to Liverpool, dosed up on Luzozade and off my head on sugar, but I was surrounded by internationals and they became role models for me.
“There was a girl called Chantelle Parry and I always remember wanting to be her. I started to follow her attitude and everything I learnt from the backroom staff has definitely played a part to where I am now in MMA. That discipline and professionalism was key.”
McCann started mixed martial arts at the age of ten, and didn’t take to the football pitch until she was 14, so there was already that competitive side in her before she’d even pulled a football shirt on.
This was despite her mum “trying to dress me in dresses and get me to dance classes,” but the former Liverpool player rebelled against this, and was instead on the football pitch with her cousins.
But having not being allowed in a gym as a child to box, her first love, it wasn’t until she was playing for Liverpool that she was given an opportunity to box out of the Golden Gloves Gym, a renound and respected facility in the Toxteth area of Liverpool.
It was at this point, McCann has a decision to make – fighting or football.
“The FA Women’s Super League was on the horizon and I now had to decide whether I wanted to make a career out of football or boxing.
“The game had changed at this point and to be honest, I’d fallen out of love with football because the management had changed and it wasn’t the same from when I first started.
“I thought I would go with the boxing, and I didn’t look back. It was the right choice and I’m glad I took the risk.”
Having made the decision to focus on boxing, and ultimately MMA, McCann’s career has gone from strength to strength. But she hasn’t forgotten her football roots, and admits that the training she received during her time with Liverpool, has certainly come in handy.
“Some of the footwork drills I did at Liverpool have transferred well into MMA and I am now known for that being one of my strengths.
“There obviously completely different sports but there are elements of both that transfer, but ultimately its your attitude that will see you successful, whether on the field or in an MMA arena.”
McCann hasn’t been involved in football for seven years, but still watches the game and said it is like “night and day” from when she played, with the professionalism and interest increasing significantly.
But the Liverpool fighter is growing her own following and fanbase, fighting in front of over 8,000 people at the Echo Arena in her last bout, and she will be there again tonight for the fight with de Souza.
A win would again enhance her reputation, and with her weight category recently added to the famous UFC, the aim is to start getting bigger fights in even bigger arenas.
“I can tell you that I was at university writing my dissertation and Ronda Rousey came on the television. I told my coaches I wanted to do what she does, and they were like, ‘sound.’ So the next day I quit university and told my lecturers I am going to be an MMA fighter. They laughed and thought I was mad.
“But the aim is to get as high as possible. I dreamed of fighting at the Echo Arena, and I’ve done that. So now its onto the next challenge.”
The fight tonight with Priscila de Souza will be on BT Sport and McCann is due to enter the arena at around 9pm. So Liverpool and Everton fans alike – get behind her.