This coming Saturday at CFA 12, Ashlee Evans-Smith will fight in a featherweight tournament final bout against Fallon Fox inside of the home for CFA fighting – the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, Florida. Regardless of the controversy surrounding her opponent, Evans-Smith remains focused on what she set out to do when she signed on to fight in this CFA women’s tournament, taking home that title.
We haven’t seen Ashlee since early March when she took out Tori Adams in her pro-debut, avenging a loss from her lengthy nine-fight amateur career and advancing to the next round all in one fell swoop. Evans-Smith earned her slot in the finals after her opponent, Anna Barone, failed to make weight in their semi-final bout scheduled for CFA 11 in May. Her opponent will be Fallon Fox, who got there by submitting Michigan’s Alanna Jones with a shin choke during that same event.
Recently I had the pleasure of asking Ashlee a few questions about her upcoming fight with Fallon, love for punk rock, thoughts on this season of TUF, and much, much more.
You can catch Ashlee Evans-Smith this Saturday night on AXS TV when she fights for the vacant women’s featherweight title. The show starts at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. Purchase Ashlee’s official Bloodhound MMA walk out shirt here.
Dave Reno: Tell us a little bit about how and when you got into MMA. What aspect of the sport made you think, wow, this is something I have to do?
Ashlee Evans-Smith: 2010 after college. I didn’t know what to do with myself since I had always played sports and I stumbled upon MMA accidentally and fell in love.
The aspect of the sport that made me think “this is what I need to do”? I really feel like being an athlete and playing sports, especially contact sports has made me into a good person. It’s kept me grounded, taught me discipline, kept me fit and healthy, showed me the way to higher education, and introduced me into some amazing people who I have learned invaluable life lessons from. The transition from wrestling into MMA just felt right. I knew it was the path I was supposed to take.
|Hangin’ with the Cookie Monster|
DR: What was the first fight you can remember watching?
AES: My friend Carl Esparza started fighting immediately after college. I remember before I even knew what MMA was I drove down from Northern California to watch her fight her 1st pro fight in So-Cal. I was immediately hooked. It was exhilarating and even more so because one of my best friends was getting her arm raised and paid for fighting another girl in a cage!
DR: Great segue! I’ve noticed that you’ve been hanging out with your friend, Carla “The Cookie Monster” Esparza a lot of late. Her walk out song, Metallica’s “Harvester of Sorrow,” is perfect for fighting in regards to the lyrics and just the general awesomeness of the song. It may be the greatest walk out song of all-time. What will you be walking out to before you take on Fallon ?
AES: Yes, the cookie monster has a great song. I was actually raised/brought up listening to Metallica. My father was in their fan club and my first concert was the summer Sanitarium tour when I was in sixth grade up in San Francisco. I’m not gonna give away my walkout song. You just have to watch the fight and listen. *smiles
DR: Music is important for a lot of fighters during their camp. You already know you have great taste in music, so I don’t have to tell you that (anyone girl that rocks the Misfits automatically gains me as a fan). What are some of the bands you’ve been listening to while training for this particular fight?
AES: Music feeds the soul. It moves people. It comforts people. It fires people up. Helps people fall in love. And yes it definitely helps me through my training camp. Music is very important to me. Like you said, it’s no mystery that I’m big into punk-rock and I guess I could list a few of my favorite bands that I listen to on a regular basis – Rancid, Social Distortion, Misfits, The Transplants, Refused, A.F.I and especially Dead Sara this training camp.
DR: Tell us a little bit about your gym and some of the amazing folks you get to train with day in and day out over in the O.C.
AES: I’ve been training at Subfighter MMA in Laguna Hills for the past year. It’s the best gym I’ve ever been apart of by far. My teammates are family. I’ve got 20 brothers to look out for me and beat me up at the same time. My coaches are like friends you can be real with and mentors who care about you and teach you with a wealth of knowledge.
DR: Your opponent next Saturday night, Fallon Fox, has been in the news a lot since revealing that she is a transgender fighter. What did you think initially when you heard this and has your opinion changed any since?
AES: After finding out that Fallon Fox was a transgender fighter I was a little shocked but not for very long. I had to sit down and ask myself if I wanted to continue in the tournament knowing that I would be in the finals and knowing that I could potentially face her there. If it was any other fight/situation besides the one I’m currently in (already having earned a place in the tournament and on the road to a championship title) I do not think I would have taken a fight with Fallon. However, I have every right to be in the tournament and there was no way I was pulling out just because she got outed. I deserve that title more than anyone right now and I don’t care if my opponent used be a man or was born a woman, no one is taking that away from me.
DR: Your opponent during the semi-finals of this tournament didn’t quite make weight for your fight – it wasn’t even close. Would you had rather her have made weight so you two could’ve fought or were you happy with moving on to the finals with a bye.
AES: I was extremely upset that my opponent didn’t make weight in the semi-finals. I train day in and day out to get into the cage and fight. I love the feeling of actually being inside the cage. I love the adrenaline. I love the attention. I love the pressure. I love the fans yelling at you. I love the challenge of executing the game plan. I love the risk. I LOVE it all. I would have much rather got into the cage, fight and beat my opponent and then moved into the finals. But it was what it was and I got to get right back into training and prepare for the big show, which is all that matters.
DR: You hold an amateur win over TUF 18’s Jessamyn Duke, and Peggy Morgan left this tournament to enter the TUF 18 house. Do you regret not trying out for the show with all of the attention it’s been getting? Or are you glad you’re seeing tournament through to the end? Also, have you been watching and if so what are your thoughts on this season?
AES: I actually DID try out for the show. I was one of the last girls to be cut. I was in the final pick but it came down to my record. After all the medical test and personality interviews that went great they wanted girls with more pro fights under their belt. I only had/have 1 and all the girls on the show have 3 or more fights.
I definitely am getting media attention with this fight. And I am not upset but I cannot make the show. I actually believe that everyone is where they are supposed to be. I believe that I was meant to win this tournament and then take the next step in my career.
I am watching the show every Wednesday night. I watch it with my other fighter friends and we really enjoy it. I’m really glad the women are getting their time to shine. I’m extremely shocked that most of the OG fighter girls are coming up short but that’s the name of the game; anything can happen and it definitely makes for good TV!
DR: Let’s have some fun. The world is going to end in a few months (wait, that doesn’t sound like fun). You can only fight one more opponent in the very last televised card of our world as we know it. You get to choose and there are only two choices. Cyborg at 145, or Rousey at 135?
AES: First off, I’d like to say that it’s good to know that with the impending doom of our world the masses are still interested in watching one last women’s MMA fight. LOL. But I most likely choose Ronda at 135 lbs. I’ll be fighting at 135 lbs after this fight and I believe a great female wrestler with some good hands can take Ronda out. Will I be that fighter? Who knows…
DR: Back to your opponent next Saturday night for a moment. You sent out a tweet that said the following: “I’m going to be the first female MMA fighter to beat a transgender fighter.” A lot of girls wouldn’t sign that dotted line to face Fox but for you , it now seems like a mission. Would you say that’s accurate or is she just the one standing in the way of your new belt?
AES: Fallon just happens to be the person standing in the way of my belt. Like I said before, I don’t care who is across from me in the cage on October 12, I’m leaving a champion. It’s never been about beating a transgender fighter. It’s always been about winning the tournament. If I happen to make history by being the first woman to beat a transgender fighter in the process, then that’s just icing on the cake.
DR: This is the part where I thank you for your time and ask you to please shout out to your team, coaches and any sponsors. Also, where can all your fans that just read this amazing interview find you online.
AES: I wouldn’t be anywhere without my amazing team at Subfighter MMA: coaches Russ Miura, Adam Lynn and Corey Beasly and the staff at Innovative Results. I also have some great sponsors – Lexani, CNP Performance, Amber Sports, Bloodhound Clothing, Fighter Girls, O.C Fight Doc, and MikeTheTruth.com
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