Just about everyone has experienced a bad day at the office once or twice in the their life, but for most people, one of the saving graces is that those days aren’t broadcast to the masses on ESPN+.
After advancing to the finals of the flyweight tournament on Season 30 of The Ultimate Fighter last year, Brogan Walker rolled back into the UFC APEX in early August to face off with Team Pena’s Juliana Miller and had a bad day.
“It’s funny that you say that and I really appreciate you saying that because obviously I’ve given it a lot of thought, and that’s honestly how I feel — I feel like I picked a bad night to have a bad night,” said Walker when asked about the night of her third-round stoppage loss to Miller as she readies to make her sophomore appearance inside the Octagon this weekend.
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In a sport where athletes get only a couple chances to perform each year, it shouldn’t be at all surprising that a handful turn up at the venue and just aren’t at their best, for no reason other than they just don’t have it that particular evening.
When it happens in basketball, baseball, or hockey, there is another game no more than a couple days away where the competitor can put their off-night behind them and rebound. But in MMA, those rare occurrences can linger and fester, becoming an impossible puzzle for the perplexed athlete to work through as they try to figure out just what went wrong inside the Octagon.
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"When you take a loss, you want to explain to everybody what happened,” continued Walker, who takes on fellow sophomore Iasmin Lucindo on Saturday night after having her initial return bout with Liang Na scrapped last month. “But when you don’t have words for it and you don’t quite understand it yourself, it’s difficult.”
But Walker is no stranger to difficulty.
Inside the TUF house, the 34-year-old veteran was forced to manage a knee injury while working her way through the competition, and following her loss to Miller last summer, the longtime resident of Guam made the challenging decision to move back to California in order to give herself the best opportunity to make her UFC dreams come true.
“Unfortunately, this is where I need to be to make my career work right now,” began Walker, who still has mixed feelings about the move back to the continental United States. “Everybody back on Guam understands, but everybody misses me and it’s hard being away.
“I fought in August and then right after, I spent two weeks here in Cali, celebrating with my team here,” Walker said, tracing her personal travel timeline back. “I went back to Guam and I think I was meant to stay for three weeks, but I stayed for five. I wanted to take the time to not only enjoy myself and regroup, but also to go and visit everybody who contributed to my success.
“This is definitely where I need to be, working with my coaches here and being on the grind,” she added. “I’m committed to my career, and this is where I need to be to make that happen.
“I’ve never been in the military, but I think about it like that,” continued Walker. “When you’re in the military and you’re away from your home and your family and everything that is important to you, it’s important to keep at the forefront of your mind why you’re doing what you’re doing, so I just try and do that.
“I try and remind myself that even though it’s hard, this is what I need to do in order to pay back all of the investments people have made in me, and that keeps me going.”
Coming off her unsatisfying showing against Miller back in August and the difficult decision to leave Guam, the veteran flyweight has been eager to get back into the Octagon, and having that return postponed surely only added to her anticipation.
Originally slated to compete in San Antonio last month, her bout with Liang was scuttled a couple weeks prior when the Chinese fighter was forced to withdraw, leading to Walker stepping in against Lucindo here.
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But the date and the opponent aren’t all that important to the returning Walker, who is far more concerned with delivering a much greater representation of who she is as a fighter and why she belongs on this stage when she makes her second walk to the UFC cage this weekend
“I hold my opponents in really high regard. I want to fight the best and I feel like looking at my resume, I make sense for that show and I make sense for the position I’m in right now,” said the energetic flyweight, who enters Saturday’s contest with an 8-3 record overall. “I was talking to (fellow TUF 30 contestant) Bobby Maximus and he was like, ‘Bro — you’re way too humble; you don’t talk yourself up enough,’ and I told him, ‘I let my actions speak for me’ and I think my record speaks wonders for me, too.
“My win against (Miranda) Maverick, who is doing so well, was back in 2018, and that gives me the confidence that I belong where I am, as does my loss to Erin Blanchfield, who is doing incredibly well. I fought her on less than two weeks’ notice — it didn’t go my way, but she also didn’t demolish me; we went all three rounds and she was the more technical fighter. Being in there for 15 minutes with each of them, holding my own against them, is what gives me confidence that I’m in the position I want to be.
“It’s frustrating to not see the growth between my fights in the house and my fight on August 6 because like I said, it was just a bad night,” she added. “But it also sets me up to showcase two, three-fold what I’ve been working on and what I’m capable of (this time around).”
Now, after a brief delay and several months grinding in the gym, working on her game, Walker is ready to finally make that walk again and show that everything she’s done over the last year since joining the cast of The Ultimate Fighter has not only been worth it, but made her a better fighter as a result.
“I’m always excited for the fight,” she said with enthusiasm, a huge grin wrapped around her face. “Ever since I was a fresh, young pup I was always just ready; ready, ready, ready! I’m excited, but also, every fight is the most important fight, so I’m treating it that way.
“All the ducks are in a row, everything is lined up; I’ve tightened up everything.”
Now all that’s left is to have a good night at the office this weekend.
UFC Fight Night: Pavlovich vs Blaydes took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on April 22, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!
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