SYDNEY – Although she’s only one fight into her octagon tenure and still hasn’t technically made the weight class, Jessica-Rose Clark feels like a contender in the UFC women’s flyweight division.
Clark (8-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC), who made her promotional debut at UFC Fight Night 121 on Saturday with a split-decision win over Bec Rawlings (7-7 MMA, 2-4 UFC), came in two pounds overweight after accepting the contest, which co-headlined the FS1-televised card at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, on just 11 days’ notice.
Still, Clark feels beating Rawlings puts her on the map at 125 pounds. She regrets not making the limit, but knows she can in the future. Moreover, given the fact it was just the third bout scheduled for the weight class under the UFC banner, Clark believes the win puts her in a good position.
“100 percent, I’m supposed to be in flyweight,” Clark told MMAjunkie following her win. “I’ve felt like that for a long time and it’s just taken me a while to get my weight in check and make sure my preparation is key. It’s wide open. I feel like I’m a couple fights away from being able to fight for the belt anyway after they crown it Dec. 1 (at The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale). I feel I stack up well with anybody they give me.”
Clark’s UFC debut came together in a whirlwind situation. She stepped in as a short-notice replacement for Joanne Calderwood and defeated a veteran opponent. It was a closely matched fight over three rounds, resulting in a split call from the judges. The all-Aussie matchup was something Clark saw in her future for quite some time, but didn’t expect it to come under the given circumstances.
“Everything about this fight and the matchup was amazing,” Clark said. “It felt like the perfect storm. It’s my 30th (birthday) in a few days and I really wanted to come home, but I couldn’t afford it. Then this fight happened and it was against Bec. This fight has been talked about in Aussie MMA for about five years now, but we were always two divisions apart. It’s crazy it finally happened, and it happened on the biggest stage in the world.”
Although missing weight will somewhat put an asterisk next to the win, Clark was just pleased to get her hand raised. She believes she would have finished Rawlings inside the distance with a full training camp, and said she hopes to have that opportunity ahead of her next fight.
“I honestly thought I could have finished that fight,” Clark said. “Obviously I took it on pretty short notice and had a tough weight cut. I feel like with a bit of better preparation I could have finished it in the second. I almost finished it anyway. I’m sure happy with that. As each fight goes by, they get better and better.”