Maycee Barber believes she wasn’t sufficiently developed as a mixed martial artist to become the youngest ever UFC champion.
Barber, who made her promotional debut in 2018 as a 21-year-old, had long been touted to become the youngest ever to take UFC gold—a record held by Jon Jones, who won the light heavyweight belt at the age of 23 years and 243 days.
The Contender Series alum experienced a rapid rise through the flyweight division, winning her first three fights via TKO in blistering fashion. Comparisons to Ronda Rousey were made, and it seemed Barber was destined to soon challenge for the title.
However back-to-back unanimous decision losses to Roxanne Modafferi and Alexa Grasso, in between lengthy layoffs due to an ACL injury, saw Barber’s rapid rise through the flyweight ranks halted. ‘The Future’ returned to action with a win over Miranda Maverick in July last year, but as she approaches her 24th birthday this May, the chance to break Jon Jones’ record has all but passed her by.
Barber Says She Wasn’t Ready To Become Youngest Ever Champ
As she prepares to return to the Octagon against Montana De La Rosa in April, Barber spoke exclusively with MMANews about her missed opportunity to go down in the UFC record books. The #14 ranked flyweight was philosophical about how her career has panned out, explaining that she needed to grow as a fighter before she could become champion.
“Honestly, when I tore my ACL, I was thinking about it,” she says. “Because I was like, me being the youngest champion, it didn’t seem as feasible. Because obviously, I was gonna be out for a whole year. And that kinda messes with the timing and everything. But the thing that I learned was: maybe I wasn’t ready to become champion at that age. Maybe there is so many more lessons that I had. Maybe there was so much more growth that I had to do as a striker, as a wrestler, as a grappler.”
Barber says that becoming the youngest ever UFC champ was a personal ambition that she was “trying to achieve for everybody.” Failing to reach that goal, the 23-year-old explained, has attracted some haters. But it’s this pressure from fans that Barber says helps her progress towards her goals, so she’ll continue to dream big and share her ambitions publicly.
During her extended layoff, Maycee says she also realized that simply dreaming about becoming the youngest ever champ, and nothing other than that, was somewhat short-sighted.
“The other thing that I also learned is; when having that goal, I feel like that was the goal that I set,” she says. “That was the goal for me that I was like, that’s what I’m gonna go after. And I didn’t really plan anything after that. Because I definitely had that feeling, I was like, ‘Well, wait. So I’m not gonna get that. So obviously, I’m not achieving that. And I was just like, so, wait…what’s next?”
Barber says that while she’s won’t be erasing Jon Jones’ name from the record books, youth is still very much on her side, and she’s got plenty of ambition to make a huge impact in the UFC.
“So for me, it was kinda a realization of like, I’m still freakin’ 23,” she says. “Urijah [Faber] tells me this all the time: ‘I didn’t start fighting or training until I was 24’ And to me I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, I am young. I am young. And I’m 9-2, soon to be 10-2 as a professional fighter and however many in the UFC at 23 years old. And I just have so much potential and so much growth. And the thing that I’m gonna do in this life, and in this career, and in this platform is gonna be huge, and this is literally just the beginning.”
What do you think? Can Maycee Barber make it two wins in a row against Montana De La Rosa?