Molly McCann has been one of the UFC fighters this year – inside and outside the octagon.
The 32-year-old from Liverpool has scored two impressive back elbow victories this year with triumphs over Luana Carolina in March and Hannah Goldie on July.
Both wins made “Meatball” one of the most recognizable names in the UFC.
“It’s been absolutely overwhelming, the love, appreciation and gratitude I’ve received around the world,” McCann told BBC Sport.
“I’m not just talking about Liverpool, I’m not just talking about Ireland, everywhere I go people just run up to me and just elbow me.
McCann could make it three wins in a calendar year on Saturday with a victory against Erin Blanchfield in New York at UFC 281.
But the flyweight’s astonishing rise didn’t happen overnight.
McCann’s MMA journey began in 2013, but after two consecutive losses between 2020 and 2021 she thought about her future in the sport.
“Having the performances I’ve dreamed of and putting years of hard work into action is pretty special and to have the recognition for what I’ve done is just boss,” he said.
“It’s prepared me for where I’m supposed to be. I feel like where I’m at in my match IQ, I’m reaching my prime now and the reputation is in line with that.”
However, McCann’s success has come at a price and she admits she has struggled to adjust to the new heights of fame.
“Nothing teaches you how you can no longer walk down the street and not be noticed and not have a minute to yourself and make sure you’re who you’re supposed to be,” McCann said.
“It was not easy at all. I had to talk to a lot of people, I had to work really hard because you can’t be you anymore and now I’m public property.
“I’m 32 and it’s crazy for this to happen so late in the game.”
McCann, who has 481,000 followers on Instagram, added: “It just took a while to realize it and know it shouldn’t be a burden.
“I’ve worked my whole life for this, but you don’t ask for fame, you ask for a world title, but with fame – I don’t like to say fame, I mean fame – I can make a change and do things so you have to face the difficult with the normal”.
McCann, currently ranked 15th in the flyweight division, will fight at the iconic Madison Square Garden – something she envisioned when she attended Katie Taylor defeated Amanda Serrano in April.
“Anyone who comes from boxing knows the importance of this arena,” he said.
“I’m literally staying in a hotel in the middle of Times Square — sometimes it’s a little crazy to think that this girl from Norris Green has made it to Madison Square Garden, so I’m just buzzing.”
“It’s always been my dream since I was little to wrestle at MSG and when I was there, when I saw the exits and got it, it totally blew me away.
“I have a picture of me standing outside, after the event, with my partner, saying ‘that’s going to be me one day’, and here it is, six months later, here it is.”
Who else is fighting at UFC 281?
McCann’s fight with Blanchfield is one of many interesting fights taking place in New York.
At the top of the card is middleweight champion Israel Adesanya’s long awaited match against Alex Pereira.
The championship bout is a rematch of hostilities between the old rivals, who have fought twice before in kickboxing. Pereira won both of those bouts.
Brazil’s Pereira is undefeated in his three UFC fights and has quickly reached a title shot with Adesanya dominates the department since becoming champion in 2019.
Also in action is lightweight contender Dustin Poirier, who takes on former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler in a sensational clash.
Poirier, who has won seven of his last nine fights, told BBC Sport that he relished the opportunity to face Chandler and would not underestimate him.
“He’s very dangerous, big punches, a lot of power, super explosive, good wrestling, very high level experience, he’s definitely very dangerous,” Poirier said.
Poirier, 33 comes out of aloss to former champion Charles Oliveira after two wins over Conor McGregor.
A win against Chandler would put Poirier back in the title picture, but ‘The Diamond’ isn’t getting over his opponent on Saturday.
“I don’t look too far ahead, you know, you have to live in the now,” he said.