Las Vegas, NV — UFC 246 was very much about the return of Conor McGregor, but other story lines permeated the card as well. One of those was youth versus experience, aptly embodied by Roxanne Modafferi vs. Maycee Barber (not to mention Aleksei Oleinik vs. Maurice Greene).
The event turned out to be a good night for Team Experience — and Team Syndicate’s Roxanne Modafferi (24-16). The long-serving veteran improved to 3-3 in this, her second UFC run. The victory came in a one-sided decision in which ‘The Happy Warrior’ out-struck, out-grappled, and bloodied Barber.
To be fair to Barber, she was also injured in the bout, hurting her leg after being knocked down by Modafferi. A ringside doctor made the baffling proclamation that she had a partial ACL tear (after a quick physical examination), before adding “she’s fine” and sending Barber back into the fray.
You can’t take anything away from Modafferi, however. She fought her fight, and was winning well before the injury.
“This win was super-gratifying,” a jubilant Modafferi told reporters including Cageside Press following the fight. “I’m very relieved and pleased with my performance. I feel like my strikes have gotten stronger than in the past. I have awesome coaches at Team Syndicate — coach John Wood, Mike Pyle, A.J. Matthews, my trainer Lorenzo Pavlica — good stuff.”
Asked about saying she planned to show her “dark side” in the fight (Modafferi is a noted Star Wars fan), Modafferi corrected by saying that “I didn’t say I needed to show my dark side. I’m still a good Jedi, except in the cage, I’m trying to— I always let it go.”
What she wanted to do, Modafferi said, was “to use some elbows, maybe seem a little more scary, maybe cut her a little bit.” Mission accomplished, especially when it came to elbows and cuts. “My hands are kind of bloody, so I guess I did that, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be scary. But the results speak for themselves.”
Barber was thought to have the edge in striking and power heading into UFC 246. Roxanne Modafferi, however, never doubted she could handle her opponent’s strength. “I had and have a healthy respect for her,” said Modafferi. “I have a pretty good chin, so I knew that her strikes wouldn’t down me. I just knew that I could go in there, I knew that I could do it, I just had to go do it.”
On the subject of Barber’s injury, and when Modafferi became aware of it, the veteran fighter recalled that she heard Barber cry out as she went down off a punch. Between rounds, her coaches advised her that Barber was hurt — and to keep the fight standing. “This was the first time in my forty-five fights that I’ve known an opponent was injured. This game is merciless, you just have to keep going and try to win.”
While Modafferi prides herself on being a good Jedi, the path to victory would seem obvious against an injured opponent: target that injury. Modafferi, however, did not give into the dark side. “I don’t think I would have done that actually. I didn’t do it, I wanted to hit her in the face.”
Post-fight, Barber interrupted Modafferi’s interview with Joe Rogan to take the mic. Something that raised some eyebrows, even if Barber was gracious in defeat.
“That was interesting. I was very curious to know what she was going to say. She apologized I think for her performance,” Modafferi said when asked about the rather awkward moment. “I won, so whatever. I hope she feels better soon. I’m very glad that I won, and I think I performed well. She’ll be back, I’ll be back, it’s all good.”
Watch the full UFC 246 post-fight press scrum with Roxanne Modafferi above!