Kay Hansen was two weeks shy of 16 and had her life all mapped out. Play softball at an Ivy League school, preferably Harvard, and become a criminal psychologist.
And she was on track to do it. Playing travel ball, scoring exemplary grades at La Habra and Whittier Christian high schools, doing well on the PSAT.
And then Ronda Rousey happened.
It began with the buildup to Rousey’s searingly heated bantamweight title defense against Bethe Correia in August 2015 in the Brazilian’s backyard of Rio de Janeiro. Hansen was intrigued.
And when Rousey knocked out Correia in 34 seconds, the challenger face-planting as the pro-Rousey Brazilian crowd went berserk, Hansen was hooked.
“Watching that fight live was when I was like, ‘I gotta do this,’” the 22-year-old Hansen said. “Two weeks later, I’m at a gym. And I haven’t left the gym since.
“Within a month, I literally am dropping out of high school to train full time.”
Hansen’s pursuit of her dream continues, this time in front of a home crowd at Honda Center as one of the youngest fighters on the UFC roster makes her flyweight debut against Jasmine Jasudavicius on Saturday at UFC 270.
This will mark Hansen’s third fight in the UFC, though the previous two were in the 115-pound strawweight division. Moving up to the 125-pound division coincided with taking a year off to address an eating disorder.
A fight scheduled for last March had to be canceled because, as Hansen says, her body was essentially falling apart, which led her to the UFC’s Performance Institute in Las Vegas for extensive testing.
“I had to pretty much like undo what I had done for a couple years – and mentally and physically. And for me, the hardest part was training, and especially fighting, was always like my outlet or my therapy, you know I mean, which is why I was so active,” she said in an exclusive interview Wednesday.
“In that early part of my life, like from 18 to 20. I was going through a lot in my personal life. So for me, I was just like, fight, fight, fight, fight, you know what I mean? And that was my coping. But it was doing so much damage to my body.”
Hansen (7-4), who trains primarily with Classic Fight Team in Fountain Valley, says she felt good walking around at 130 pounds on Wednesday, two days before weigh-ins. And on Friday morning, she was beaming stepping on the scale at 125 pounds.
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Awaiting the 5-foot-2 Hansen – “to be fair, I’m short in both divisions,” she said – is a true flyweight. Jasudavicius (6-1), who stands 5-foot-7, will be making her UFC debut after defeating Julia Polastri via unanimous decision in September on Dana White’s Contender Series.
Hansen says she hasn’t scouted her Canadian opponent much, leaving that up to her coaches. She’s more focused on what she has to do.
“Just like every other opponent in the UFC, I’m expecting a tough fight,” Hansen said. “I’m expecting the best version of her just because, like, I’m the best version of myself, so I should expect nothing less.”
UFC president Dana White, whom Hansen asked to move this matchup back a week so she could fight close to home, is looking forward to seeing what the hometown fighter can do.
“She’s finished six of her last seven wins. And, you know, she’s got some submissions, some knockouts. She can do it all,” White said. “She’s young and upcoming. She’s won once in the UFC. So it’s a big fight for her.”
Hansen, who turned pro in 2017, debuted in the UFC with a third-round armbar victory over Jinh Yu Frey in June 2020 that earned her a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus.
Five months later, in a battle of 21-year-old prospects and the youngest women on the roster, Hansen dropped a unanimous decision to Cory McKenna, all by scores of 29-28, even though Hansen feels she did enough to get her hand raised.
While Hansen is looking to get back in the win column, she is confident she is on the right path.
“I’m still growing as a person. And as an athlete. So for me, of course, I thought I personally won that fight. But I don’t consider it like a loss in my book,” Hansen said. “No one walked out of the fight saying, ‘OK, you’re not good or like you needed the enemy. It was like, ‘That was a great fight. I thought you won.’ Even if you didn’t think I won, you didn’t think it was a bad fight, you know?
“And I’m fine. I’m in the UFC. I’m where I want to be, you know what I mean?”
Where: Honda Center
How to watch: prelims (3 p.m., ESPN+); prelims (5 p.m., ESPN/ESPN+); main card (7 p.m., PPV via ESPN+)