News of Cortney Casey’s fight with JJ Aldrich at this Saturday’s UFC Vegas 21 broke right at the end of February. But “Cast Iron” has known about the scrap a fair bit longer, she told Cageside Press recently.
“It’s been a while. At least nine weeks,” Casey (9-8) told us, just over a week away from the event. “I got a full camp and everything. It was the first time Drakkar [Klose, her partner and fellow UFC fighter] and I had camps that overlapped, so it was a little bit different. But it was just a new experience, in trying to get everything ironed out and figure things out, but we made it work, and so far, so good.”
Klose was supposed to fight just weeks before Casey, but the fight was pulled due to a positive COVID-19 test from one of the fighter’s corners. Luckily, Casey revealed, it was a false positive.
When UFC Vegas 21 rolls around, it will be Casey’s third consecutive scrap at 125lbs. “I’m pretty much done with strawweight. Just gonna stay at flyweight here,” she confirmed, adding that the plan is to make a run at flyweight “and see how everything goes. Just try to play the field a little bit.” And, in something of a surprise, Casey added “if they want me to take some short notice fights at 35, I can do that as well. But right now, 25 will be my home.”
Bantamweight would be quite the jump for a fighter who previously competed in the 115lb division. But although she is fighting 10lbs heavier these days, the cuts aren’t any easier. Quite the opposite.
“Honestly so far my cuts at 25 have been a little bit more difficult than my cuts to 15,” Casey revealed. “I did have about a 15 month layoff in between moving from 15 to 25. My whole body composition had changed, and obviously getting older and everything had a lot to do with it.”
Casey’s still trying to work out the kinks at 25, she continued. “They’re getting better, each cut’s getting better, but the first couple were different, I guess you could say.” The 33-year old has been working with the UFC PI, sending them a list of everything she eats, her workouts, and so on. “They just tailor things as needed. We just kind of go from there.”
Having a fight fall through is never fun, and both Klose and Casey have had it happen in the last six months. On Casey’s side, that was her planned bout with Priscila Cachoeira at UFC Vegas 12 in October.
“That was a huge roller coaster. That kind of opened my eyes to 135, because we ended up changing, Fight Week, the whole bout agreement to 35 just because [Cachoeira] came in so heavy,” Casey explained. “She came in Fight Week at like 154lbs.” There was no way her opponent could make the flyweight limit, Casey observed, so they agreed to a bantamweight fight. “And then she ended up not making that weight either. So the whole fight got scrapped.”
Here’s one unfortunate reality about the fight business: If you don’t fight, you don’t get paid. “Even if you weigh in, it’s not like you get paid either. Everything’s up to the discretion of the UFC, of what they’re going to give you,” Casey noted. “So it’s definitely a lot of money missed out on, but at the same time, you’re got to kind of look at it on the bright side, in that at least we have the opportunity to be fighting.”
It does hit the bank account pretty hard, however, “going through two camps, and then also two camps in COVID,” added Casey. “Meaning you’re kind of training a lot differently. You’re bringing people in, you’ve got to make sure they’re staying away from people, and isolating yourself as much as possible so you don’t get those positive tests.”
“I feel like a lot more money goes into camps now just because of the coronavirus and the pandemic and things like that. It’s a lot more money going out for camp, and not having those fights go through, you’ve still got to pay everyone,” she finished.
With luck, there will be no such hiccups when Casey takes on Aldrich this weekend. Asked about the pairing, Casey stated that “I think we match up pretty well. I think our styles are pretty similar, I know we both have backgrounds in jiu-jitsu. We do like to strike.”
“She’s a gamer, she likes to move forward, and she likes to bring the fight, which I’m excited about. Her striking’s good, she’s a southpaw so it’s always interesting going against a southpaw. I haven’t gone against a southpaw in a while, let alone a true southpaw as in JJ,” continued Casey. Michelle Waterson, Casey explained, was more a of a “karate southpaw, whereas JJ is more of a boxing southpaw. Waterson moves a lot, switches stances and things like that where JJ pretty much stays as a southpaw.”
“I’m really excited for it. I definitely think it’s going to be one of those Fight of the Night contender fights,” Casey finished.
2020 was not an easy year to set goals for. For many, it was a disaster, if not downright tragic. With a vaccine rolling out globally, an end to the coronavirus pandemic is finally in sight. For 2021, Casey has a rather interesting plan: fight often, if possible. If not, take some time off to grow her family with Klose.
“I would like to get back in there soon, Casey told us, then added “King’s getting to be almost three here in July, so we don’t want to have a big gap between the babies. So it depends. Hopefully I can get a fight in pretty quick, but if they’re going to sit me out for six months, then I might as well sit out twelve months. Get a baby in there, and then come back after that.”
Having a second child join son King is “definitely something we’ve been talking about. We were trying to do it last year, but then with my fight falling out, getting three fights in and getting some money in the bank is always good,” said Casey.
There has been lots of talk in recent years about Dad Cerrone and the like. A a fighting mom, Casey pointed out that “our job doesn’t change. That’s all I can say. We’re still mom 24/7, and then we have camp.” When it comes to dads, “I feel like they’re dads, but when it’s camp time, it’s camp time. Especially when the babies are this young, they tend to gravitate more towards mom anyways. So I feel like it’s a little bit easier for dads to go and train and do what they need to do than it is for moms.”
It’s not for lack of effort on Klose’s part, mind you. It’s just a baby boy wanting his mom. “Even if dad tries to go over there and help out, it’s not stopping the crying or anything. He still wants me.”
A growing family should be all the motivation Casey needs this weekend.
Cortney Casey faces JJ Alrich this Saturday, March 13 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. The card airs live on ESPN+ (TSN in Canada).