PFL: Aspen Ladd Desired 145 Move for Last Couple Years, UFC “Didn’t Want Me to Move Up”

Prior to her arrival in the Professional Fighters League, former UFC bantamweight Aspen Ladd admits that there was some “curiosity” about the promotion on her part.

Making her debut with the company on November 25 against Julia Budd, Ladd (9-3) acknowledged during a media session on Tuesday that “When I was in the UFC, it was mostly curiosity. I was curious about the PFL.”

“Obviously I wasn’t there at the time, but [I was] hearing things from these fighters that I know that were in it, that were talking about how they were treated and the structure of the tournament format. And that’s really something that I’d never experienced,” Ladd recalled. “Not only the fact that you know four times a year exactly when you’re going to fight, but the fact that you’re not going to be basically shelved for four months and have to fight on two month’s notice… I was like ‘wow that’s got to feel good,’ and that was intriguing for me.”

When Ladd had to decide what to do next after being released by the UFC following well-documented struggles to make the bantamweight limit, “That was kind of at the forefront of my mind. Like, ‘you know, I’m very intrigued by this.'”

There was a turning point in Ladd’s mind, she told Cageside Press on Tuesday, where she realized bantamweight just wasn’t feasible.

“Yeah. The last couple years, it’s been that. That was my desire, was to move up. And the UFC, they have that division, but they’re not really putting any attention or effort into it,” stated Ladd, who saw multiple fights cancelled due to weight issues during her UFC run, but fought just once at 145lbs. “It kind of exists only because Amanda [Nunes] has the belt right now. And they didn’t want me to move up. And so that was probably the last straw. Like, I know I can’t, I could barely sometimes make 135, and every single time it was bad. So it was more of a health thing. This last time [in September, for a planned fight with Sara McMann], that was the leanest I’ve come in. I started that cut at 142 pounds.”

Ladd’s last cut was well publicized, and after roasting to sweat off the weight and feeling like she was dying, “I’m never doing this again, I’m done,” Ladd told herself. “Whatever the course may be, it’s 45 from here on out.”

Of course, at the time, the PFL hadn’t announced any plans for a women’s 145lb division. Since its inception, women’s lightweight has been the only female weight class the promotion has hosted, built around Kayla Harrison. With Harrison exiting the season format, however, the door was opened to try out a different weight, and it appears 145 will be the new home for female fighters in the PFL moving forward.

Had the PFL forged ahead with lightweight, however, Ladd would have fought there if need be.

“Yeah. When all this happened, that was what I thought was gonna happen. I walk around a little bit below that, but you’re not going to go to a promotion like ‘hey I know you have this weight class, but let’s do it at a different one.'”

In the end, however, “It all kind of just worked out perfectly,” she noted.

Aspen Ladd faces Julia Budd at the PFL 2022 World Championship on November 25, 2022 at the Hulu Theater in New York, NY.