Tonight, the UFC finds itself in the unique position of having its first event in South Dakota, and it's the first one since the promotion's new ownership was announced. This show will mark the beginning of a new era, and despite the fact that the card looks modest on paper, it will no doubt be an important event moving forward.
Last week's fights were a great group of upsets and nail-biters with the women getting a nod for putting on some of the best, most memorable ones we've ever been treated to. With another pair of women's bouts on this card, the potential for this event to go from "modest" to "great" increases dramatically.
During the lead-up to UFC 200's main event featuring Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Nunes, Mike Goldberg put out a WMMA statistic that seemed very disproportionate. Since the very first women's fight in the UFC, which took place about 3.5 years ago, there have only been 10 cards with a female headliner. To put that into perspective, since that first fight, there have been 57 PPVs, 81 Fight Nights and 12 FOX cards for a total of 150 events.
In a recent interview with Champions.co, UFC women's bantamweight No. 13 contender, Lauren Murphy weighed in on a variety of topics, including the marketing of women in the promotion, and why she feels that WMMA is headed in the right direction under the careful guidance of the UFC.
"You know, I honestly do think it's enough [10 of 150 cards featuring female main events]," she said. "I know that's not a fair take, and I know it's not very popular among people that want to support female fights, but the truth is, the women's divisions are still very, very small and they're still very, very new.
"That Aldo/Edgar fight was an awesome one, and those guys were doing some high level MMA that you often don't see in the women's divisions. Among the top four or five women, you're going to see that kind of skill level, but that's a very small group.
"To see the women headlining UFC 200 was just awesome. To see them headlining two out of three cards from this huge fight week was simply amazing. That's a big step in the right direction.
"I think if women want to be more recognized and they want to headline more cards, then a few things need to happen. We need more women in the UFC. We need more women that are coming up and doing well. We need more women that have a deeper skillset. We need women that are going to go out there and pull the trigger."
Murphy faces an undefeated prospect in Katlyn Chookagian, and while Katlyn's record may be unblemished, the level of competition she's faced isn't on par with the opponents Lauren has faced. This is a fact she feels may not be as important as one might think once the cage door is closed.
"I don't think she's fought nearly the caliber of opponents I've fought coming into the UFC," she said. "I was fighting women that were ranked in the Top 10, that were undefeated and had a lot of accolades behind them when I was in Invicta. Moving into the UFC felt like the natural next step up for me.
"Looking at her past opponents, I don't see anybody super impressive on her resume. At the same time, I don't know if any of that really even matters. The hard truth is, everybody loses in the UFC. That's just the way it is.
"Even the superstars eventually come across somebody that is going to be their downfall, so I don't really read too much into an undefeated record or anything like that. Once you get to the UFC, it's a whole different level of competition than anything you're going to find on the regional circuit."
The new weight cutting guidelines the UFC brought into play officially at UFC 200 has some fighters standing defiantly against the eight-percent rule. This rule basically means that within four days of the official weigh-in, a fighter must be within eight percent of their target weight.
That presents a new challenge to the athletes, as many believe it forces two weight cuts in a week. Fighters ranging from flyweight champion, Demetrious Johnson to middleweight crowd pleaser Josh Samman have stated that they won't be going out of their way to essentially cut weight twice.
Lauren believes this is ultimately going to end up benefiting fighters by forcing them to stay closer to their fighting weight, which will in turn, phase out extreme weight cuts.
"I think the eight-percent rule is smart, and if you've had a good cut, and you've done it right, then it shouldn't be a problem to be here, fully hydrated, still eating food and able to have good sweating sessions. I don't see why that would be a problem for anybody," she explained.
"As long as they are taking care of themselves, and they're dieting down right, it honestly shouldn't be a problem. They shouldn't be cutting weight to get to the 8% mark of their body weight.
"For bantamweights, we'd have to weigh in at 145, and you should already enter fight week at about that weight. Hopefully, if somebody does end up having a problem with it, that will be their clue to get better educated on how to cut weight or it's their clue to move up a weight class."
In an effort to ensure her own success with getting her weight on point for this particular camp, since it is a short notice bout, Murphy has been working with George Lockhart of FitnessVT.
"For this particular camp, because it was short notice, I called up George Lockhart to get some tips on watching my diet, staying hydrated, certain vitamins that I wanted to be taking to keep my immune system healthy and for recovery purposes," she said. "That was originally why I called him. I wanted to know what he does for recovery after weigh-ins. It's been pretty cool working with him and being able to pick his brain."
Lauren has been on the receiving end of not one, but two questionable decision losses. In a career that saw her face tough, high level competition and win, it's an incredibly hard pill to swallow when you know you've been dealt the wrong hand. This isn't a game. It's a career that hangs in the balance and a livelihood that is at stake. The impact of that can be overwhelming. She detailed what it was like for her in those few days following the first loss.
"I was trying to not let the moment pass me by. I want to experience every emotion and every feeling that I can while I'm on this journey. What the f**k else are you doing it for if you're not going to take in every single second?
"Afterward, it was hard. I watch that fight a lot. There's some debate on what is more important, damage or control? It just depends on which judge is sitting cageside. For me, it became very, very, very important to always work to finish the fight. Like really important [laughs].
"I started to learn that after I fought Sara [McMann], and I really learned it the hard way after I fought Liz [Carmouche].
"These girls are supposed to be the best in the world. They don't have anything that I don't have. They didn't go out there and do anything magical. I don't even think they won those fights.I guess I learned a lot of things from those two fights:
- I always need to be working for the finish.
- You can't worry about s**t when you're in the Octagon. You just have to go out there, pull the trigger and let it go.
- To really trust in my team and my coaches. I've been on the grind with the best team in the world for two years straight, now. That's a hell of a f*cking fight camp to have [laughs].
"After that, I started working with a sports psychologist, and it's been helping me a lot. Again, it's nothing magical, it's just reminding me of stuff I already know and teaching me new ways to think about my sparring sessions and practices and stuff like that.
"If nothing else, I can take positives away from those losses. They still sting a little bit, but they've helped me grow as a fighter."
Tomorrow's fight with Chookagian will be the last on Murphy's contract, but you won't see her looking to test the free agency market. For her, the grass is absolutely greenest on the UFC's lawn.
"I would rather just re-sign with the UFC. Where else would I go? There's nowhere that has this level of competition, pay rate or anything else. The perks that come with being in the UFC are f*cking awesome."
Do-overs for a fighter come in the way of rematches, and for Lauren, the one career do-over she'd really like to have is the Liz Carmouche fight.
"If I could go back and do it over again, I would and I would just pull the trigger. I went out there and was going through probably what Miesha [Tate] was going through. I just felt a lot of pressure and I felt like I had some questions in my head. I was asking myself those questions instead of asking Liz those questions. I should have been directing all my energy at her.
"Honestly, I feel like I beat her on a half-ass day anyway. That was not me out there, that was a half-ass Lauren Murphy who was real timid, and not myself.
It would be nice to get that win over her and get ranked in the Top 10.
"I feel like I should already be ranked there right now. There's f*cking women out there that are on 3-fight losing streaks that are ranked above me. I don't get that. I'm not even sure why Carmouche is still in there. It's been well over a year over a year since she's fought.
"The problem with Liz is that ever since she fought Ronda, she's become more timid. That's how she fights now. She fought me the same way she fought Alexis Davis, who happens to be an absolute beast. It's hard to watch her fight because she either wants to hug your legs or run away the whole time."
Brock Lesnar's return to the Octagon was a high point for the promotion as well as for legions of fans. While Murphy wasn't overly impressed with his performance, she's a big fan of his new attitude towards fighting.
"I wasn't overly impressed with him. Whatever. I didn't think it was better or worse than any of the other fights I watched, but I wasn't that curious about what he was going to look like when he came back anyway.
What I have been impressed with is his attitude since coming back to fighting again. It's actually been cool to listen to his interviews and hear the way he's been talking about fighting and the way he talks about himself and the people around him.
I don’t know, I think he’s different now. It’s been cool watching his new attitude towards his career. I think I’ve enjoyed that more than his comeback fight."
The ability to relax is sometimes a task for dedicated fighters. With so much on the line, we often see them spend more time in the gym than out. Lauren is a very dedicated fighter that happens to be able to make her personal life work right alongside her career, and she does it pretty seamlessly.
One of her favorite ways to relax is watching Game of Thrones. We asked her a few questions regarding some key moments from Season 6 (SPOILER WARNING!!).
Champions: With Cersei’s resourcefulness and willingness to sacrifice her own happiness for power, do you think she could be the one on that iron throne when it's all said and done, or do you have someone else in mind?
Lauren Murphy: Oh hell no! Daenerys is gonna have the throne. She's coming and she's got a whole f*cking army of badasses AND three dragons. Cersei is going down.
Champions: Do you think Cersei had an idea of how fragile Tommen was and knew that if she took out his beloved wife, he might commit suicide?
Lauren Murphy: I don't think she did. I think she's just so selfish that she missed it. She should have seen that coming, but she's so self-centered and focused on defeating her enemies and getting what she wants that the one thing she had left that she loved the most, she completely overlooked.
Bucket Lists used to be for those that were staring death square in the face, but the term has been widely adopted as just a list of things you want to accomplish before you die. The imminence of death is no longer the dominant factor. As our final query for this interview, we asked Lauren what was at the top of her list.
"I really want to travel the world. I'm not going to fight forever. I just want to travel everywhere. I love to travel and experience different cultures. I just want to see the whole f**king thing.
"I was a nursing student once upon a time before I started fighting, so I think I'd like to go back and complete my degree and become a travel nurse and just travel the world with my husband and make a lot of money and live it up."
You can catch Lauren tonight on the UFC Fight Night 91 card, live from Sioux Falls, SD. Her bout is the seventh one on the card and can be viewed on FS1.
(Image via MMAWeekly.com)