They exist in an ever evolving sport, which is why Aspen Ladd
and her coaches compare her skills to a Lego Ferrari with a
never-ending amount of pieces.
Ladd has been adding to her tool kit since she started her formal
training at age 14. The undefeated women’s bantamweight prospect
first walked into an MMA gym in hopes of finding a way to stay in
shape. Little did she know that she would be hooked soon after.
“Within a week, I fell in love with the sport; the competition is
what got me hooked to it,” Ladd told Sherdog.com. “You always have
something new to learn, and it always keeps you on your toes.”
Ladd has enjoyed the luxury of training at the same gym since she
started her MMA journey: MMA Gold in El Dorado Hills, California.
She stood out from her peers from the beginning.
“The first time I saw Aspen in there, she was not training MMA,”
said longtime coach Jim West. “She was in there with her brother,
and they were just rolling around on the mats.” He remembers
turning to one of his colleagues and saying, “That girl is going to
make it.” West saw the drive. “She has the one thing that not
everyone has, that something you cannot teach, and that is the will
to win. She would show up and get beat up, then wash the blood off
her face and come back.”
Ladd kicked off her amateur career at age 17 and compiled an 8-1
record across some 18 months of competition. By then, she had run
out of options and outgrown her surroundings.
“They couldn’t really find me anymore opponents as an amateur,”
Ladd said. “It is hard to find opponents once you get
The upstart prospect and her coaches decided it was time to turn
pro. Ladd signed with
Invicta Fighting Championships and joined the roster as one of
the promotion’s youngest fighters. Although lacking in experience,
she believed she had the tools necessary to excel.
“I have the most confidence in my team and in my coaches,” Ladd
said. “I knew I was able to perform at the highest level, and if
they had confidence in me moving to this next step, I was totally
comfortable with that.”
She won her professional debut by first-round technical knockout on
Feb. 27, 2015 and then submitted Amanda
Bobby Cooper with a second-round armbar to improve to 2-0.
Cooper went on to become a finalist on “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Ladd’s first two pro bouts came at 125 pounds, but the weight cut
proved problematic, prompting a move to bantamweight. She finished
her next two opponents with ground-and-pound. Ladd’s quick success
did not surprise those closest to her.
“Aspen is an extremely humble person, but she takes herself and her
team very seriously,” West said. “She has a lot of expectations
that she holds for herself and her coaches, too, and it’s our job
to reach her high expectations. That’s why she is continuing to
progress and is able to keep adding those Lego blocks. You have to
keep building in a sport like MMA.”
In her most recent appearance at Invicta 21 on Jan. 14, Ladd went
the distance in securing a unanimous decision over Sijara
Eubanks. She found value in the experience.
“I was having fun out there,” said Ladd, her perfect record now
sitting at 5-0. “I was able to showcase my boxing skills, which I
have been working hard on.”
Ladd’s primary goal — to be a better fighter each time she
competes — never changes. She does not adhere to the concept of
“There is no such thing as a camp; it is not even in her
vocabulary,” West said. “She trains year-round, and since she is
constantly doing that, we are always adding pieces to her game. We
are always able to add a wrinkle into her foundation and something
new to her never-ending product.”
Ladd sees herself as part of the newest wave of mixed martial
artists, finely tuned fighters who are not chained to one
“In the beginning of my career, people thought I was just a
grappler, but I love boxing now and I am getting better every day,”
she said. “I am a well-rounded martial artist.”
By sharpening her skills daily and leaning on the wisdom of her
coaches and teammates, Ladd has progressed from top-ranked amateur
to Invicta bantamweight contender in a blink. Soon, the 21-year-old
hopes to add the newest piece to the Ferrari.
“The next thing for me is the UFC,” Ladd said. “I am just waiting
for the phone call.”