The women’s flyweight division will have a new champion after UFC 231 as Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Valentina Shevchenko will duke it out for belt in Toronto. But simmering in the rankings below the new champ will be a bevy of up-and-comers who aim to make the reign of the new champ as brief as possible. Enter Lauren Mueller.
After wowing audiences and earning a contract on the first season of Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series, Mueller made her UFC debut last April at Fight Night Glendale. That debut, a three-round war with Shana Dobson, might easily have been the fight of the night had that bout not shared the bill the brutal Poirier-Gaethje headliner. It still stands among the top fights the division has seen thus far.
For her sophomore scrap, Mueller finds herself fighting internationally for the first time in her pro career at Saturday's Fight Night Beijing. She'll stand across from Yanan Wu, and look to keep her undefeated record intact.
We caught up with 'Princess Tiger' in Beijing to ask where she fits into the flyweight puzzle, and what the future holds.
UFC: How has your camp been? How do you feel?
LM: My camp was great. I got the call about six weeks ago so I’ve had a full camp I feel strong and healthy. I’m excited to be here and excited to fight.
UFC: Is there anything different you did during this camp? How have you added to your game?
LM: One thing that I’m really excited about is that I have gained a new strength in terms of being aggressive right out of the gate. What I’ve noticed in my previous fights is that I tend to play off my opponent a little bit, like I wait for where they are at then I go one step above them. So I haven’t been really been showing my full potential and being as dominant as I am. This fight I really look forward to having a dominant win, going out being aggressive and showing a whole different side of me.
UFC: What do you consider a dominant win?
LM: A quick finish, submission or knockout. I know I’m going to get one of those so I’m pretty excited.
UFC: What makes you a dangerous match-up for your opponents?
LM: I have a variety of skills. I’m not one dimensional but in my other fights I haven’t shown all my skills. In this fight I don’t know if I will show all of them because I am going to go for that quick finish but I am going to display more a dominant fighter this time.
UFC: Many people think that you are dark horse in this division. Does it bother you that you’re just considered a dark horse and not a contender yet?
LM: It just fuels the fire. I’m called “Princess Tiger” for a reason so it just fuels the fire and I’m going to show everyone more of the tiger inside of me and that aggressiveness. I’m going to show Dana what I’m about so I won’t be that dark horse.
UFC: How did you get the nickname “Princess Tiger”?
LM: It goes way back. I’ve been called Princess for years and years from my girly side then stepping on the mats, I’m a completely aggressive athlete. They kind of combine the two sides of me into who I am.
UFC: What’s your favorite part about fighting?
LM: I love to challenge myself, mentally and physically. I have that athlete switch where I just really enjoy competition and seeing the new aspects every time I step in the cage.
UFC: What are your thoughts on Yanan Wu?
LM: My opponent I believe is more of a striker, but I don’t think she realizes what a good striker I am. Like I said I don’t show all my different tools so everyone hasn’t seen my ground game. So I’m expecting to take her down pretty fast and get a quick finish.
UFC: If all goes well for you on Saturday, what’s the next six months to a year look like for you? What do you want to accomplish?
LM: I want another fight right away. I’ve already spoken to Dana and I told him I wanted to fight after this if I have no injuries. I want to stay active and I want to stay out there and get noticed.
UFC: Do you think this fight will get the attention of the division?
LM: Absolutely. Everyone is going to know my name after this fight.
Gavin Porter is a writer and producer for UFC.com, follow him on Twitter at @PorterUFCNews.