Before she became a professional fighter in the UFC, Ashlee Evans-Smith was a journalism major in college. Two years ago, the gregarious extrovert made use of her degree, creating a YouTube Channel where she interviewed fellow fighters. Now 32, the fighter decided to take stock of her career, and working in the media once again grabbed her attention.
“You’ve got an expiration date,” she told Bloody Elbow. “I’m not old in life, but I am old for the fight game.”
A fan of the podcast “Guys We F’d,” hosted by comedians Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson, Evans-Smith got to thinking. MMA fighters are often seen as a breed apart and are rarely humanized, and what is more human than talking about sex? Besides, it was a topic she felt comfortable discussing.
“I’m a sexual being,” she says. “I’m flirty, I’m never afraid to talk to a boy. And it’s always been fun. Who doesn’t like the butterflies?”
Evans-Smith reached out to producer Rick Lee for advice on how to get started on her own podcast, called “Sex and Violence with Rebel Girl.” She was asking about equipment and logistics, but when Lee heard she planned to interview MMA fighters about their sex lives, he offered to produce it himself.
While Evans-Smith won’t shy away from an outrageous sex story—she pitches the podcast as a cross between Howard Stern and Joe Rogan—she also points out that the guest will determine the tone of the show, and listeners can expect to hear stories about dating, marriage, and love as well.
“It’s a private topic, but it doesn’t have to be,” she says. “Confidence is built when stories are told in a safe place.”
She is also eager to humanize fighters to a fanbase that can be bruising. The way the public interacts with fighters on platforms such as Twitter “is soul crushing sometimes,” Evans-Smith says.
Her first episode appropriately featured Ian “Uncle Creepy” McCall, her second “Smilin’” Sam Alvey. She admits to stacking her first few episodes with old friends she knows well, making the conversations an easy back and forth. When asked if she’ll take pages out of Rogan’s playbook to get people to open up, she says that because of COVID interviews are being conducted remotely, with fighters in their own home. “But if they want to smoke weed, more power to them,” she laughs.
When asked about how COVID has impacted her fighting life, Evans-Smith recounts the “roller coaster” of having been a fighter booked on the now infamous Woodley vs. Edwards London card that was scheduled for March 21. The on again, off again turmoil left her crying into her veggie burger on the plane back to the United States.
Once on terra firma, she was told there was a chance the fight was back on, but with her weight cut in disarray the news only brought more stress. Then there were six weeks of not knowing whether she would be paid. She did receive a check from the UFC, but while it was a fraction of what she would have received for the fight, she says, “I am very, very grateful.”
Evans-Smith stresses the importance of looking at the bright side of things. In addition to the check from the UFC and collaborating with Rick Lee on “Sex and Violence,” she received a sponsorship that allowed her to create a home gym in her garage, while also stating, “The first rule of speakeasy training, you don’t talk about speakeasy training.”
“I know I sound like a cornball,” she says, “but you have to focus on the positive.”
When asked to make some predictions about upcoming UFC 250, Evans-Smith quickly picks Nunes to retain her belt, and then laughs that she goes with “extremely calculated picks” based on personality. “It’s like, ‘Oh, this guy’s cool!’ And you know what? It works! So be a good person and you’ll win your fights.”
Using this strategy, she is backing Cody Garbrandt, Neil Magny, Aljamain Sterling, and Alex Caceres.
As far as “Sex and Violence with Rebel Girl,” Evans-Smith hopes Bloody Elbow readers will know “it’s not just some raunchy show about what MMA fighters like in bed. We’ll be discussing love, dating, and sex, and it will give fans a way to connect with fighters on a different level.”