Ashlee Evans-Smith details difficulties during her UFC 223 fight camp

Newly-minted UFC Women’s Flyweight Ashlee Evans-Smith began her career at a new weight class with a victory over Bec Rawlings. But the backstory to her training camp was much more eventful than her fight with the Australian striker.

Her post-fight interview hinted at less than-ideal situations surrounding her camp, and now she is opening up about the experience. In an interview with Bloody Elbow, Evans-Smith details fight prep that included being asked to leave her home gym, having no coaches able to corner her, and being abandoned by her nutritionist.

Her long-time gym, Team Oyama, wanted her to spend more time there because she was spending time at other gyms with other coaches. They gave her an ultimatum, and she decided to pass. She says, “We parted ways on good terms. I still think it’s a great gym with great coaches. I still recommend it to people. But not every gym is a perfect fit for everybody.”  Given the uncertainty of integrating into a new gym before a fight, Evans-Smith chose to visit different gyms rather than settle at one place.

That would have been enough to disorient most fighters, but this was just beginning for Evans-Smith. Next

“To add kind of salt into the wounds, I found out that my Muay Thai coach wasn’t going to be able to be in my corner. So I lost my head coach and my Muay Thai coach. And my jiu jitsu coach was out in Vegas, and we hadn’t seen each other in months, so it was pointless to have that person be my coach as well.”

Turns out her Muay Thai coach was in Budapest with another fighter, and could not corner her. Then, she turned to UFC veteran Mark Munoz, who helped her with wrestling, but…Mario Navarro

 in the last week of us working together, he had to go away for a wrestling trip that happened last minute. So there’s another person that was taken away from me unexpectedly.”

As her camp progressed, Evans-Smith’s nutritionist resigned. Evans-Smith explains:

“It was only because I had not checked in for a couple of days and the nutritionist got very mad, saying, ‘How am I supposed to make your meal accordingly if you don’t check in with me?” but I’d only missed maybe two check-ins and by check-in I mean texting that person my weight.

“The only reason I didn’t do that is because I plateaued. My weight hadn’t gone up or down and this person flew off the handle and told my manager at the time that I’m ‘hard to work with’ and in all the years I’ve been sponsored and working with different businesses, I had never had any company ever complain about me.”

The fact that Evans-Smith is vegan caused problems because the nutritionist wanted her eat foods prohibited by her diet. Ready for one last hitch? Her then manager became ill and wasn’t with her during fight week. So that’s another person who was not there,” she says.

However, she found help from three people. One was her good friend and fellow Menlo College wrestler, UFC strawweight fighter Carla Esparza. Esparza became her overall coach, wrestling coach, and primary training partner. Second was Chuy Gutierrez, who acted as her striking coach.

“The fact Bec was a boxer — or called herself a boxer — and I got to work with him and he got to coach his first UFC fighter and be a part of that, it was amazing. And he’s just a really happy and positive guy.”

Last, but not least was Bellator fighter Mario Navarro, her boyfriend. “He really was the glue for my entire fight camp. Not to sound corny, but he’s really like my best friend, too. So he got to fill these roles, as a coach and partner, and our relationship got stronger.”

Besides finding three people who she knew she could count on, Evans-Smith learned a lot about how she prefers to prepare for a fight:

“I was really really happy the majority of the camp because I wasn’t worried about what a coach would say, because I kind of got to structure my own fight camp. I got to do whatever I felt like I needed to do. I always made sure I was doing strength and conditioning. I also made sure I got every aspect in, but if I felt like I needed a night off, I didn’t have to worry about my coach getting upset with me or letting down my teammates or stuff like that. So, it was just a very different fight camp and it was probably the weirdest most unusual fight camps and one of the best ones I had.”

Here’s hoping that Ashlee Evans-Smith’s next fight camp is boring and uneventful.




Veteran martial arts writer also published in Black Belt and Fight! Magazine.

One comment

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *