Aspen Ladd definitely walks to the beat of her own drum.
The 24-year-old bantamweight contender may be one win away from challenging for a UFC title, but that’s the last thing on her mind as she prepares to face Germaine de Randamie this weekend in Sacramento.
In fact, Ladd has stated numerous times that she’s not chasing UFC gold even if a win over a former champion like de Randamie would almost certainly put her next in line to face Amanda Nunes.
“Anybody with half a brain understands the implications of a fight like this but at the same time I keep saying I’m not chasing the title. It just keeps getting thrown at me,” Ladd said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I’ve taken every single fight they’ve given to me and I’m going to continue to do so.
“If the next one is that giant step, OK. If it’s not, that’s OK. It doesn’t concern me. I’m just here to fight and to get experience.”
Now that might sound like a cliché line so Ladd can deflect the obvious questions about the title leading into her upcoming fight but that’s exactly the same way she’s felt ever since arriving in the UFC.
With a perfect 8-0 record including three wins in the UFC, Ladd is already ranked in the top five in the bantamweight division and along with Ketlen Vieira, she’s the only other person who hasn’t already faced and been defeated by Nunes previously.
Still, Ladd has always preferred to keep the focus on what’s directly in front of her because without beating de Randamie on Saturday night, there’s no point in even addressing Nunes or any other fight in the division.
“I’ve never really been after that. I’m always about what’s in front of me, not what’s five steps ahead already,” Ladd explained. “So whatever the next step is, whatever is right in front of me, that’s what’s most important. That’s the most important fight, the most dangerous competitor, I don’t really think beyond that. It’s worked out pretty well so far.
“[Some fighters] get too caught up in the end game, the end result, and they’re thinking about the belt, but that is not an end game. You get that it’s even harder than it was before. It’s like you fight so hard to get to the UFC but then you have to fight even harder to stay there. You fight so hard to get the but it’s even harder to maintain the belt. There is no end game. It’s a journey and you’ve got to be ready for all of it.”
In a strange way it’s that kind of approach that actually makes Ladd a compelling opponent for someone as dominant as Nunes, who has won her last nine fights in a row including victories against every former women’s bantamweight champion in UFC history.
Nunes tore through legends like Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg, which quickly made her one of the most feared fighters on the entire UFC roster. Obviously, Ladd has been impressed by Nunes’ run as well but she would approach that fight just like every other in her career.
“I feel the same way about every single fight. They’re all the next most dangerous opponent. I get excited equally for every single fight. It doesn’t matter if it’s Germaine, Holly [Holm], Amanda [Nunes], equally excited for every fight,” Ladd said.
“Yes, I understand her accolades and she’s very, very good at what she does. We’re all very, very good at what we do but I get the same feeling for every fight no matter who it is.”
Ladd’s modus operandi to treat every opponent the same is why she’s not intimidated by de Randamie nor would she be facing somebody like Nunes down the road.
“[Amanda Nunes] is a phenomenal fighter and phenomenal at what she does but anybody can get caught, anybody can have an off day,” Ladd said. “You get caught up in the other person, they were this, they were that, and you lose sight of what you’re good at and how you got to this point. You can’t really get too caught up in the other person.”
That attitude is exactly how Ladd is carrying herself going into the showdown with de Randamie this weekend. Ladd knows de Randamie is a lethal striker with knockout power in every limb but she can still be beaten just like everybody else.
“She’s the No. 1 contender for a reason and a former champion for a reason,” Ladd said about de Randamie. “She’s a world class striker, she’s one of the best in the UFC, man or woman, and she has a whole lot of experience. She’s more experienced in that aspect of the arts than I am in my entire career. She’s extremely experienced so she’s a great opponent.
“I know what she’s going to do. She knows what I’m going to do, too. It comes down to who is going to have the better game plan that night.”
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