Aspen Ladd is giving it a go 10 pounds up.
The 26-year-old enters her UFC Fight Night headliner against Norma Dumont at featherweight putting aside years of struggles to stay under the bantamweight maximum of 135 pounds.
“It’s almost bizarre to actually walk around feeling good [for] fight week,” Ladd told The Post in a phone interview ahead of the Saturday fight at UFC Apex in Las Vegas (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+). “We’re training normal, eating good. It’s like, alright, I could get used to this.”
The bout marks the return of the 26-year-old Ladd (9-1, seven finishes) to the octagon after a nearly two-year layoff caused by a torn ACL and MCL last year.
It could have been sooner, since a rescheduled fight against Macy Chiasson never materialized on Oct. 2 when Ladd, who has long struggled with making weight, came in heavy at 137 pounds, one pound over the non-title limit.
The weigh-in drew attention due to Ladd displaying some distressing body language on the scale. With sucked-in cheeks, the UFC utilized its 360-degree curtain to allow Ladd to weigh in privately without her clothes in an effort to reach the mark. Her hands visibly shook as she raised them over her head while officials calmly urged her to “stay still.”
Ultimately, the fight was called off as Ladd accepted full responsibility for her latest failed attempt to reach the contracted weight, also pointing to having “started my period 2 days back and made this cut absolutely miserable.” According to the California native, Chiasson opted not to take the bout in light of the missed weight.
Difficulty making weight and late-notice cancellations are nothing new for Ladd. They’ve been routine throughout her young fight career:
- After turning pro in February 2015 as a flyweight (125 lbs. max.) with all-women promotion Invicta FC, she told The Post her successful cut to the contracted weight for the follow-up in September was “horrendous.” Having added muscle as she left her teens, she moved up to 135 for her third pro bout on short notice.
- By her fourth pro bout in July 2016, she weighed in at 138.1 for a bantamweight bout but still managed to win via second-round TKO.
- Her scheduled UFC debut against Jessica Eye in July 2017 was scrapped the day of the fight due to what UFC officials termed an “illness.”
- In April 2018, she weighed 137.8 pounds for a fight against Leslie Smith, who refused to accept the fight at a catchweight.
- A year later, in July 2019, she displayed troubling body language similar to that of earlier this month but managed to weigh in at 135 even. She lost by TKO the following night to former featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie in 16 seconds. The California State Athletic Commission issued her a temporarily-suspended fight license shortly thereafter but lifted it a few months later.
According to CSAC, which makes public its fight-night weights, Ladd was able to rehydrate from 135 one day to 159 the following evening for the loss to de Randamie, a 17.8 percent increase in mass. Ladd told The Post that she doesn’t typically get so close to 160 pounds so quickly before a fight and is more often in the 155-pound range.
“When I fought at , it was the same. I was up around 145,” Ladd said. “I’ve always put on 18 to 20 [pounds].”
She referred to “a horrendous cut” as the reason for ballooning so high for her first career defeat.
“That was six weeks after the previous one,” Ladd said with a regretful laugh, “and I won’t do that again. That was very, very hard.”
But even with that in mind, Ladd isn’t ready to close the book on 135 pounds. With so little time between the scrapped bout and this one, her and her team have yet to formulate plans to help ease her down in weight more healthily.
But, she says, that is the plan, with the caveat that she’s open to being a tweener who competes both at 135 and 145 — two divisions with the same champion: Amanda Nunes.
Ladd points to “body type” as a challenge in reaching 135 pounds. She said she can do so but requires a long time “and everything’s gotta be perfect.”
The idea of cutting such a steep amount of weight is nothing new in MMA, especially at the lower weight classes — which encompasses virtually all of women’s MMA as no major organization holds fights above 155 pounds. At this point, it’s ingrained in the culture.
Ladd, for one, would be thrilled to see “the water cut” eliminated from the sport.
“Everybody in the UFC would be a weight class up,” she says. “But in the current culture of the sport, that’s not gonna happen. We’ll see in a few years. I think it’s gonna take something very drastic for it to take out the water cut.”
Ladd sounded more optimistic about what lies ahead this week in preparation for Dumont (6-1, two finishes). She said she won’t be cutting weight as she competes closer to her more natural weight for the short-notice bout, for which she stepped into a week ago for the ex-bantamweight champ Holly Holm due to a cited injury.
“We’ve been planning on going to featherweight — at least visiting the weight class and going back and forth — for a long time, and this is kind of the catalyst,” Ladd told The Post over the phone Wednesday. “And the fact that it’s such a short notice fight is perfect.”