Alexa Grasso knows all about the pressure of being a blue chip prospect.
It was a little over four years ago that Grasso was an unbeaten 23-year-old strawweight making the jump from Invicta FC to the UFC with plenty of hype behind her. She won her first UFC fight, but then fell into a 50-50 slump that was compounded by her struggles to make the 115-pound limit.
A move to the 125-pound division last year looked to be exactly what Grasso needed as she beat Ji Yeon Kim in her flyweight debut, than scored another big victory over Maycee Barber in the co-main event of UFC 258 on Saturday.
Grasso, 27, was asked about living up to high expectations, including the possibility that she could become a Ronda Rousey-level star in her native Mexico, and noted that she welcomed the comparison while also brushing it off.
“Of course I want to be like that in Mexico, but you have to also be intelligent,” Grasso said at the UFC 258 post-fight press conference. “To not let the hype and the media and all the volume and all the attention get more important than your training.
“So yes I love that, I love to be hearing that, but I just want to be focused on training and getting better and better and better.”
Against Barber, Grasso showed both her highly-touted striking and a strong grappling game to counter her aggressive 22-year-old opponent. She outworked Barber in the first two rounds before weathering the storm in round three to walk out with a decision win.
Grasso wasn’t necessarily planning to show off all the improved aspects of her game, but she welcomed the chance to do so.
“She’s a well-rounded opponent,” Grasso said. “I didn’t want to take any good shots because she hits heavy like me, so yeah it was more strategy, take the things more calm, put her on the fence, do my wrestling, do my jiu-jitsu. I showed this transition that I trained with my coach and teammate Diego Lopez who’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu—I think he’s ready, I hope he can have an opportunity here soon—I’ve been training so hard for that.”
Depending on whether she has any lingering injuries from the contest, Grasso is aiming for a return in June or July. Grasso had a noticeable limp as she entered the post-fight press conference area and told reporters she felt “a little something weird” in her knee in the last 30 seconds of the fight.
Whoever is next for her, Grasso is eager to bring an evolving skill set—and some added maturity—to her future fights.
“I was the veteran this time in the cage,” Grasso said. “I’m usually the youngest athlete in the octagon, this time I was the veteran, so I used that on my win.”