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Leaving behind country and son, UFC’s Ailin Perez gutted by cancelation of Hailey Cowan bout

Ailin Perez did it all in the end, but fight.

The UFC women’s bantamweight went through a full training camp, traveled to Las Vegas, and did all the pre-fight media for the UFC Fight Night 220. She then cut and successfully made weight, but was informed there be no fight on Saturday night.

Her opponent, newcomer Hailey Cowan (7-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC), was forced to withdraw due to illness. Just like that, Perez (7-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) was left without an opponent.

“When I got the news that I wasn’t fighting, I just felt bitter and very sad,” Perez told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “I didn’t get a sense during the week that this fight wasn’t happening. I saw her very assured, I crossed paths with her in between training, and she looked good, she looked lucid. I was also contacted to do an interview to react to her comments, and that was strange because she was saying it was going to be an easy and bloody fight. I waited for her at weigh-ins to face off and look at her in the eyes, and she never showed up.”

The Argentine was gutted by the news, as she was eager to return to the cage to get her first UFC win since she lost in her UFC debut back in September. Perez was angry to see all her work and sacrifice not pay off. For this specific fight, Perez made a few major changes to enhance her career.

Trying to further her game now that she’s in the UFC, Perez made the tough decision to switch teams, leaving behind her group in Argentina. She packed her bags and in December moved to the U.S. to live and train at the MMA Masters headquarters in Miami, Fla.

It was a big investment, going from spending Argentine pesos to now American dollars, but that’s just money. The real sacrifice for Perez was leaving behind her five-year-old son, who was cared for by her parents.

“The hardest thing about all this was the distance that I have with my son,” Perez explained. “I’m here for a future. I want to be UFC champion, and I will become one, but I’m also here to give my son a better future. Both things go hand in hand.

“First, I want to be able to bring him to the U.S. and have him live with me. But as you said, the economy here is different, and I come from a country that’s in a different situation, and here is very expensive. So I need to make double the sacrifice. The toughest part was leaving my son behind. I left in December and it’s almost March.

“So yes, I had to spend a lot of money because the U.S. is not cheap, even just on a day-to-day basis, but the toughest part was leaving my son. I wasn’t with him on New Year’s. I’m not there at night to keep him company, and he’s just five. He just started kindergarten and I missed out on his first days in kindergarten. I’ve missed out on soccer tournaments of his, and I really wanted to be there. He plays goalie on a team. That hurts me a lot. As I mother, I value those things. By far the biggest sacrifice is being away from my son.”

Fortunately, the UFC did recognize Perez’s efforts and did give her some money for living up to her end of the deal. Perez is relieved to have received that compensation. She was also given the opportunity to get a quick return, but that’s going to have to wait.

“The UFC treated me very well, and they did give me compensation so that I’m OK and I don’t go so many months without a pay,” Perez said. “I did the work. I needed that money because everyone knows I have a son and that’s how I provide for him. This is my job. They (UFC) helped me a lot.

“They also offered me that I could fight in a couple of weeks or anytime after that. I need to speak with my coaches to see when’s the best time to come back. For now, I’m going back to Argentina to spend time with my son because I need that. I can’t take a fight right away, my son always comes first above anything.”

Perez expects to compete in a couple of months. She doesn’t want to take too long to return to the octagon. Ideally, Perez hopes to get re-booked with Cowan. Not only did she already prepare and gameplan for her, but this experience left her with a sour taste.

“Hopefully that’s the next one, and I’m not going to stop training,” Perez said. “I’d like to get that fight for two reasons. One: that fight needs to happen, there’s a reason why they booked that fight. It needs to happen. Two: I want to break her head for all the trash talk she made.”


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