Everyone has their vices.

For some, it’s a glass of scotch after a hard day at the office. For others, it might be a morning jog to clear their head before the rigors of the daily grind.

In the case of California’s Ashlee Evans-Smith, it’s the natural high of victory that makes everything feel okay.

The Subfighter MMA product got a heavy dose of that elation in October when she claimed the Championship Fighting Alliance featherweight tournament championship with a third-round TKO win over Fallon Fox.

“I had never felt anything that great in my life,” claimed the 26-year-old while speaking to The MMA Corner. “My heart dropped. Now, I want to get that feeling back.”

Evans-Smith (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Evans-Smith (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

The win was truly a life-changing event for Evans-Smith. She entered the October contest unsure of what the future would hold and how she would make ends meet. When the referee peeled Evans-Smith off of Fox, it led to an out-of-character display of emotion.

“I don’t cry a lot,” revealed Evans-Smith with a laugh. “That should give you a sense of how I felt. Obviously, those were tears of joy. I wanted to win for a lot of reasons. I wanted to beat Fallon and prove to people my skill level.

“But, to be completely honest, I was hurting for money at the time. Seeing that $20,000 check put in front of me, I knew at that moment that life was going to be okay. I knew I wasn’t going to have to go home and eat a can of vegetable soup.”

Many casual observers had pegged Evans-Smith as the underdog against the transgendered Fox, ignoring her extensive amateur wrestling background. After wrestling in high school, Evans-Smith went on to wrestle for Menlo College and earned All-American honors four times. With most of the attention on her opponent, Evans-Smith seized the opportunity in front of her.

“I knew winning would put my name on the map,” she admitted. “I did feel added pressure, added excitement. [But] I do well with more pressure. You can use it as negative energy or positive energy, and I used it as positive energy to train harder.”

Evans-Smith’s positive outlook helped her cope with a lot of negative attention that surrounded the Fox fight. Although the vibe of the pre-fight buzz could have brought down even the most easygoing person, Evans-Smith can look back at the whole experience and find the silver lining.

“The worst part of the media hype was having to answer questions about my moral opinions on transgender issues, when all I wanted to talk about was MMA,” recalled the fighter. “It didn’t seem relevant to what I wanted to do, to my job.

“Now that we’re past that, I don’t really talk about that anymore. I talk about what it was like to fight her and all that, which is fine. I’m grateful to put my name on the map. Now it’s on to the next one, and I’m excited to show people I’m not a one-trick pony.”

Although Evans-Smith currently sits with a professional record of just 2-0, her tournament win caught the attention of World Series of Fighting. The upstart promotion only recently added women’s divisions, but with an established broadcast deal in place with NBC, it represents an attractive outlet for fighters to ply their trade.

“I chose World Series based on the fact it’s the perfect step in my career,” explained the Californian. “It’s the next chapter in my MMA book. I really believe in the organization. I think they’re going to do great things.”

Ironically for the fighter, beating Fox did more than just draw the attention of the WSOF. It also meant that while she lacked experience as a professional, her name carried more weight in the minds of her potential opponents.

“It’s been months since I’ve gotten a fight. I don’t think that was their fault,” said Evans-Smith of the promotion. “I’m not one to sit around and wait for someone to call; I like to stay busy and stay active. I think with my last fight, my name kind of blew up a little bit and made girls question whether they wanted to step up and fight me.”

Luckily, nine months after her win over Fox, someone has finally stepped up to fight Evans-Smith at WSOF 10 on June 21 in Las Vegas. That person? Invicta FC veteran Marciea Allen.

“I’ve looked at all of her tapes, amateur and pro, the best the internet has to offer at least,” Evans-Smith stated of her current opponent. “She’s well-rounded, but in a basic sense. She comes from a striking background and doesn’t do anything fancy. She’s got good head movement, but she’s not super aggressive.

“I’m not going to underestimate her, but I’m not going to overestimate her. We watch video, form a good game plan and go in there and do what I know how to do: fight.

“After the fight, we’ll be friends…if she’s a nice person,” Evans-Smith joked.

The fight with Allen is taking place in the 135-pound bantamweight division, 10 pounds lighter than where Evans-Smith has competed thus far in her career. It’s a calculated move that the fighter believes will open more doors for her going forward.

“There are more opponent opportunities [at 135],” she said. “At 145, there’s opportunities to compete, but with the addition of the bantamweight weight class in the UFC and in World Series, it just seemed like the better opportunity.

“My body-fat percentage suggested that I’d be more athletic and agile if I cut a few extra pounds. The weight cut to 145 was simple already. I owed it to myself to put myself in a division where I would have more opportunities both opponent-wise and maybe even financially.”

Living as a vegetarian since she was 19 years old, Evans-Smith is confident that changing weight classes will be a breeze.

“I’m already a pretty clean eater,” she explained. “I cook a lot of my own food at home. I enjoy eating out, but I’ve been a little more ‘Suzy Homemaker’ these days. I’m learning more about processed foods. I’ve just had to portion control.”

Evans-Smith (L) (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Evans-Smith (L) (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

The confidence in her diet is understandable. After all, there have been numerous fighters that have found success at the sport’s highest level while eating a vegetarian diet, including UFC title challengers Jon Fitch, Jake Shields, Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz and The Ultimate Fighter winner Mac Danzig.

“I think it gives you an advantage,” declared Evans-Smith. “If you supplement your diet in the correct ways protein-wise and making sure your body is getting all the nutrients your body needs, you’ll have more energy, the weight cut will be easier, and you’ll feel good all around. I think it’s an advantage more so than a disadvantage.”

In addition to the options her new, lighter weight class offers, Evans-Smith gets to partake in a little bit of history in her fight with Allen. The WSOF held its first women’s bout earlier this year, crowning Jessica Aguilar as its inaugural strawweight champion, but Evans-Smith’s match-up with Allen will be the promotion’s first 135-pound contest.

“There’s a lot of firsts going on here: it’s my first bantamweight fight, their first bantamweight fight and my debut with them. It’s a lot of things that could be more pressure, but it’s not pressure. I see it as incentive to perform well, and I do well with that,” Evans-Smith said of her first WSOF appearance.

Evans-Smith may have been out of action for quite some time awaiting her promotional debut, but she’s anxious to show fans what she’s worked on during the course of the last nine months away from the cage.

“Every fight, I try to fix the holes,” she acknowledged. “I’m very hard on myself technique-wise. I won the [Fox] fight, but I saw a lot of holes in my game. My head movement wasn’t there at the time. I wasn’t setting up my kicks enough.

“My coach and I picked it apart. When you see me on June 21, you’ll say that girl has grown leaps and bounds from when she fought Fallon.”

When the cage door shuts in Las Vegas, Evans-Smith will be looking to make a statement. She’ll try to pick up where she left off against Fox last October and take the first step toward WSOF gold.

“Even though I’m a wrestler by background, I pride myself on being three-dimensional and having exciting, aggressive fights,” Evans-Smith stated. “No matter what happens, whether I win by TKO or submission, I know the fans will see an exciting fight.

“They’re definitely going to see a finish. It’s not going to go the distance.”

If Evans-Smith’s prediction is true, she’ll be able to get the long-awaited euphoria fix she’s been craving since her last fight. But then she’ll have to find a way to bide her time until the next one.

Ashlee would like to thank her coaches, Adam Lynn and Russ Miura, and all of her teammates at Subfighter MMA, her strength and conditioning coach, Corey Beasley, at Innovative Results in Costa Mesa, her nutritionist, Angela Robinson, at CNP Performance Sports Nutrition, and all of her sponsors. Follow Evans-Smith on Twitter: @AshleeMMA1

About The Author

The MMA Corner Staff

Your home for all things MMA. News, Interviews, Event Coverage, Editorials. If it is MMA related, you will find it on The MMA Corner.

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  • Fawn Lopez

    WSOF gold? Are you high? They only have one fighter at 135! Her. All the best 135s are in UFC and Invicta. WSOF couldn’t even find her an opponent for 5 months! What a joke.