Aspen Ladd’s most recent performance inside the Octagon was not a strong one. After taking the opportunity to compete in the featherweight division, following repeated weight struggles, Ladd landed just 16 strikes through the first 3 rounds of her five round contest against Norma Dumont—in the headlining slot of UFC Vegas 40.
Among the notable story-lines of the bout was the struggle from Ladd’s corner to provide her with coaching between rounds and, more than that, their attempts to get her focused on winning the fight. Those efforts, which included some visibly growing frustration from West and what commentator Michael Bisping lauded during the broadcast as “tough talk,” also drew some notable criticism. Especially from former women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate.
Tate expressed extra concern for the harshness of West’s tone, and some of his physical gestures. Things that might not have been all that notable coming from someone who was merely Ladd’s coach, but that, in her experience, took on extra importance coming from someone who’s also Ladd’s boyfriend.
“People think that I’m crazy, because they look at it and say, ‘Well the coach needed to be the coach, and he needed to be hard on her, and he needed to tell her the truth,’” Tate explained. “Yeah, you’re right, but there’s a difference between motivating and there’s a difference between giving her the body language—just the little two-finger shove on her shoulder to kind of get her to focus on him. You don’t understand, when you break that down, exactly what that means and what’s going on in their relationship.
“People just see this one little glimpse, and I’m looking at this from someone who’s been on the outside in the big picture. And I think she failed to show up more so probably due to outside factors than what you saw in the fight. It’s hard for people to understand that unless you’ve been there.”
Tate also added that she feels the coach/partner dynamic is especially problematic when that person isn’t just in the cage as a cornerman and equal, but is occupying the head coaching role. Because it can create an environment where a fighter is essentially always living with their boss.
“Absolutely, especially your lead coach,” Tate emphasized when asked if she would tell fighters to avoid dating their coaches. “I would absolutely say you don’t want that. And that’s where Johnny and I differ very much from what I was used to. In that, yes, he’s in my corner, he’s a part of my camps, he does teach me things sometimes, but I see us as equals. And I think he recognizes that, too. Sometimes, I show him things. We don’t have someone who’s in charge of the other one. We are just there to support each other, because it’s difficult when someone always gets to be the boss of you. And that translates over into the personal life, too, where you just start to feel like you lose yourself. Because where do you draw the line? Where’s the difference?
“If somebody always gets to be the boss of you, and it’s 24-7, pretty soon you’re swallowed up in that. Especially if you’re not with the right person to give you that guidance. It’s a very tricky thing to do. I don’t think very many people are able to make a head coach relationship [work]. And it’s always women. It’s always women that end up dating their head coach. We haven’t really seen it in reverse, so I’m not sure what that would look like in the reverse. But, I can speak from my situation that, for the most part, it was detrimental. And the longer that it went, it was detrimental.”
For his part, West has since issued a blanket apology via social media:
“...I blame myself. Though it may not be my fault. it’s not up for debate. I take all the blame. Yes after the first couple rounds I may have been a little harsh but i know aspen and at that time technical conversation was not in the cards being down 3 rounds. Nonetheless i own it and i am sorry @aspenladd from the bottom of my heart I will continue to be better each time.”
Tate is currently set to headline this weekend’s UFC Vegas 43 Fight Night card in a bantamweight bout against Ketlen Vieira. A welterweight fight between Michael Chiesa and Sean Brady is scheduled for the co-main event.