Maycee Barber says she knows why Paige VanZant doesn’t want to face her

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Maycee Barber is currently recovering from a broken thumb. Upon her return, though, she already knows who she wants to fight: Paige VanZant.

The top UFC prospect told Luke Thomas on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that she should be ready to come back to the Octagon in late August or September. VanZant is the desired opponent, but Barber is not confident it will happen. The Colorado native said she doesn’t think VanZant wants to fight her.

“She doesn’t want to fight me, she doesn’t want to lose,” Barber said. “She wants to keep building her name and getting wins under her. And this is a fight she could possibly lose — and she knows that. I think that’s why. Also, given my history in fights, I go to finish and I usually cut people up. She also doesn’t want to have her face damaged.”

Barber, just 20 years old, is coming off a second-round TKO finish of J.J. Aldrich at UFC Nashville last month. She broke her thumb in that bout and had surgery recently. Barber said she was told she’d be cleared in 10 weeks. VanZant is also dealing with an injury, a re-fracture of a bone in her arm. The timetable for their returns could be very similar, which is why Barber is eyeing that bout.

“Why her? Because she’s already said no and that’s a really good fight, you know?” Barber said. “For me, anyway. I know that she doesn’t want to fight me. Last I checked, she was No. 14 in the division of the flyweights. And since we’re both in the flyweight division, I feel like it’s a good fight.”

Barber (7-0) said she offered to fight VanZant as a replacement for Rachael Ostovich back in January when it seemed Ostovich would not be able to compete in that bout. Barber said she was told VanZant turned that down. Barber, who has finished all but one of her career opponents, thinks VanZant is good, but presents a favorable stylistic matchup for her.

“She’s a high-paced fighter,” Barber said. “She’s got skills and she’s very athletic. But I’m me and I go to finish. She hasn’t fought a ton of girls that go out to just finish. There’s one thing about being a fighter who is technically good and then there’s someone who has like a malicious intent to finish a fight and I possess that. And there’s only a few girls who possess that. I know that I’m one of them and I feel like Tatiana Suarez is another girl who’s a finisher. She goes out to hurt you. We’re few and far between as fighters who fight like that.”

Barber fought Aldrich at flyweight, the division where she’d fight VanZant if it came together. But “The Future” is also considering heading back down to strawweight now that her nutritional health has improved working at the UFC Performance Institute. Barber thinks she’ll see Suarez down the line, possibly in a title fight. The goal for Barber remains to be the youngest champion in UFC history.

During the UFC 236 broadcast Saturday, Barber said she heard the commentators talk about Suarez, a former Olympic-level wrestler, having the best wrestling among women in the UFC. Barber said she plans on changing that.

“The first thing I said when I saw that, I said, ‘not for long,’” Barber said. “We’re working on that wrestling now. We’re gonna make improvements and we’re gonna change that. It’s not gonna be Tatiana Suarez has the best wrestling in the strawweight division. It’s gonna be Maycee Barber has the best wrestling in the strawweight division.”

First, though, Barber has her sights set on VanZant. She sees that the two are on an eventual collision course, whether VanZant likes it or not.

“We’re in the same division now,” Barber said. “You can’t keep saying no. At some point, we have to fight.”




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