Aspen Ladd is ready for a fresh start with her PFL debut on Friday following the end of her UFC run.
Her UFC release came after seven fights and after she failed to make weight multiple times. The 27-year-old fighter holds no ill will against the company for that decision. If anything, she believes it was the best course for her career, because now she’ll get to compete at a more natural weight at 145 pounds, and she’ll only be tasked with winning as a measure of her success in the cage.
“We all know that MMA is not just based off skill these days,” Ladd told MMA Fighting. “It’s based off how much you can talk or how prominent certain features are. [PFL is] taking that out of it.
“It’s just getting back to who’s the best. Who’s the best at what they do. Not at what they say or how they look. That’s definitely an appealing part of this promotion.”
During her time in the UFC, Ladd came to accept that she might miss out on some opportunities because she refused to behave like a lunatic on the microphone or make crazy call outs on social media.
Ladd never wanted to be disingenuous with the way she carried herself. But she’s seen plenty of other fighters willing to act out, even if it’s completely out of character for them.
“There’s a lot of discount Conor [McGregors] these days and they’re doing it just because they want the attention but it’s so insincere,” Ladd said. “They’re not that person. They’re not good at it. It’s just like, come on, but you all know why someone’s trying to do that or trying to present themselves in a certain way, or feel like they have to do certain things to get the attention.”
In many ways, Ladd accepted the promotional side of the sport as a harsh reality of what it took to succeed in the UFC. But she’s understandably happy that the PFL largely eliminates that aspect.
“It would be amazing if we were just basically judged on the merits of what we do, but we’re not,” Ladd said. “That’s not part of it. It’s an entertainment sport. You’ve got to be good, and you’ve got to promote yourself in a certain way – it is what it is.
“[With the PFL] besides the format, and basically a tournament style, and you know when you’re fighting, you know how many fights you’re going to get. Obviously, you have to do well, but that was very appealing to me.”
Another benefit to joining the PFL roster is the inclusion in 2023 of a new 145-pound women’s division, which is where Ladd will compete.
Ideally, she said she would have fought at featherweight in the UFC, but it was made abundantly clear to her that there was no real interest in developing that division.
“I’ve said this already, but if somebody is in the UFC fighting at 145 and they can drop [to bantamweight], they need to,” Ladd said. “Otherwise, they need to start looking at other options because I don’t think that weight class is going to be there for much longer.
“It just exists so Amanda [Nunes] can hold two belts. I don’t think they’re going to put any effort into it, if it stays around, and that’s a big if.”
Meanwhile, the PFL has plans to put together an entire season around the featherweight division with the winner ultimately earning a $1 million prize after claiming the championship. Currently, the PFL promotes a 155-pound division, but all signs are pointing toward a focus on featherweight starting in 2023.
The commitment to growing a legitimate 145-pound division is one of the many reasons why Ladd chose the PFL as her new fighting home.
“It’s super exciting,” she said. “Obviously a lot of the chicks can drop [down in weight], but they’re also going to bringing in new ones. It’s just the creation of something new and a place where I’m excited to be.”