Aspen Ladd produced a disappointing performance in her featherweight main event with Norma Dumont at UFC Fight Night 195, but much of the talk centered on the actions of the American’s coaching team.
Ladd stepped in at short notice to replace original headliner Holly Holm, having failed to make weight for a bantamweight showdown just two weeks previously.
But moving to 145lbs – where many feel she is best suited – did not help Ladd as she offered little against Dumont, who was the more active of the pair and had notable success with her jab.
The Brazilian picked up a unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47) on the scorecards at the UFC Apex as she improved to 7-1 overall, while Ladd suffered a second defeat of her 11-fight career.
— UFC (@ufc) October 17, 2021
Returning to the Octagon for the first time in almost two years, Ladd appeared cautious throughout the opening rounds – with her team attempting to rouse her in no uncertain terms as the fight wore on.
That included between the third and fourth rounds when Ladd’s coach, Jim West, approached her and asked her to “tell me what you’re doing.”
“You have to throw more than one punch, you have to fight,” West demanded, also berating Ladd later on.
— Jed I. Goodman © (@jedigoodman) October 17, 2021
Ladd roused slightly in the final round, but Dumont held on comfortably for the win.
But online, debate was already raging about whether West’s tactics were right.
UFC women’s icon Miesha Tate, who was critical of Ladd for her weight-cut miss before her last scheduled fight, screamed that the coach’s actions were “abuse.”
“This is ABUSE, what a douche,” tweeted Tate.
This is ABUSE, what a douche
— Miesha Tate (@MieshaTate) October 17, 2021
When it was argued that West had deployed a similar method to motivate Ladd during her third-round TKO win against Yana Kunitskaya in her last bout, Tate shot back: “She would’ve done that without him it’s who she is.
“He will take credit for her win but never for her loss. Trust me she can only take so much of this abuse before it breaks her spirit.”
She woulda done that without him it’s who she is. He will take credit for her win but never for her loss. Trust me she can only take so much of this abuse before it breaks her spirit. https://t.co/hDx7g9aDoU
— Miesha Tate (@MieshaTate) October 17, 2021
Others claimed West’s actions – which included apparently telling Ladd that she “had to finish this broad now” – were “awkward” to watch and that he was playing to the cameras rather than giving the tactical breakdown she needed to improve.
“He almost made her cry between rounds,” said another person.
I feel like this guy is coaching for the camera right now
— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) October 17, 2021
It was still awkward af
— 2dukes (@2dukes2) October 17, 2021
He almost made her cry in between rounds
— Charlie Harris (@Charlie79298956) October 17, 2021
"You have to finish this broad now."
-Aspen Ladd's coach
— Boogerbeard (@Boogerbeard1) October 17, 2021
However, some defended the coach, claiming he would know better than most how to get his fighter going.
“I mean he knows her better than us. He must know what motives her. And even if it doesn’t, he’s giving her a reality check. She’s on a fight and she’s losing, ain’t no time to beat around the bush. Better to be real rather than a Yes man,” wrote one fan.
“Only reason people think this is weird is because it’s [women’s MMA]. If this is a male fighter no one bats an eye at that,” read another response.
I mean he knows her better than us. He must knows what motives her. And even if it doesn't, he's giving her a reality check. She's on a fight and she's losing, ain't no time to beat around the bush. Better to be real rather than a Yes man.
— Blamo (@simonblamo) October 17, 2021
Only reason ppl think this is weird is cuz it's wmma. If this is a male fighter no one bats an eye at that.
— Musa (@humancontraband) October 17, 2021
I see nothing but great coaching. You gotta tell your fighter the truth even if it seems harsh. If you don’t they aren’t gonna do anything differently and lose the fight. I think it was her last fight he said somewhat of the same thing and she went out there and finished it.
— Justin🇨🇦 (@aquin69) October 17, 2021
West, who is reported to be in a romantic relationship with Ladd, himself later issued an apology for the scenes.
“Tonight was not our night,” wrote the MMA Gold coach on Instagram.
“It’s been our night many, many times at the highest level but not tonight. I blame myself. Though it may not be my fault. It’s not up for debate. I take all the blame.
“Yes after the first couple rounds I may have been a little harsh but I know Aspen and at that time technical conversation was not in the cards being down 3 rounds.
“Nonetheless I own it and I am sorry @aspenladd from the bottom of my heart I will continue to be better each time.”
Ladd, 26, phlegmatic in an Instagram message she issued to fans, writing: “Not my night. Congrats to my opponent. We will be back better. In the meantime I finally got to get back in there after nearly 2 years.
“Now it’s time to take a step back, take a breath, and get back to fighting and feeling like myself again. On to the next.”