Amassing five consecutive victories between 2019 and 2021, UFC flyweight contender Lauren Murphy got the opportunity to challenge Valentina Shevchenko in Murphy’s first attempt at claiming UFC gold.
In UFC 266’s co-main event, Murphy fell short, but after sharing the cage for 19 minutes with the flyweight division’s all-time best, she realized she needed a change of scenery to evolve into a championship level fighter.
After the loss, Murphy went home and reassessed her training regime, and figured out the best plan to help her progress and move forward in her career. Her first step was packing up and moving camps to Denver, Colorado.
“I have a team now that looks after my health,” Murphy said. “I have a really good nutritionist and endocrinologist who helped me recover from some serious health issues I had, and she’s been a huge part of my success.
“I started training with new coaches based out here in Denver and they hold me to a very high standard and hold me accountable. You can’t have coaches around you that are just trying to be your friend, trying to be your dad or something like that. You need coaches that will be kind of hard on you and not afraid to tell you when you’ve f****** up.”
One of Murphy’s most important changes, however, was her new ability to train with high-level female athletes, something that was lacking in her previous training camps. Formally training in Houston, Murphy trained with a mixture of men and women. Despite having its benefits, training with men failed to provide Murphy with realistic looks ahead of the biggest fight in her career.
In Denver, that’s completely changed.
“I’m training with what I think is the best women’s team in the world right now up here in Denver. There’s a lot of female UFC fighters and we’re all about the same size and weight, and some really good male training partners, as well. But really training with a large team of women that are high-level has just done wonders and confidence for my growth.
“I was training with a lot of men in Houston, too, and that definitely has its place, but it’s not a very realistic look for me. I did that for so long in my career and it eventually go to a point where it wasn’t a realistic look. I don’t fight men; I fight other females, so training with other high-level females has prepared me in ways that I wasn’t getting previously.”
All these new additions led Murphy to her biggest win to date when she defeated former UFC bantamweight champion Miesha Tate via unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs Rodriguez in July.
She hopes to double down on victories over past champions when she faces former strawweight titleholder Jessica Andrade at UFC 283: Teixeira vs Hill on January 21. Andrade makes it three past or current champions in a row for Murphy, who has her eyes set on a second run at the UFC flyweight title.
“My fight with Valentina was a huge learning experience for me,” Murphy said. “That night didn’t go the way that I wanted but there were a lot of lessons I took away from it and I made it a point to learn something from that fight, and the things I learned resulted in one of the best performances of my life in my next fight and that’s the trajectory that I’m going to stay on. I feel like, right now, it’s my time. I should be fighting former champions; I should be fighting current champions. I’m working my way back to a title fight, so I want these tough fights against these high-ranking UFC stars so I can work my way back to a championship and feel well prepared for it.”
Despite competing on the UFC’s first pay-per-view event of the year, and its return to a full capacity crowd in Brazil, Murphy isn’t awestruck by the opportunity. At this point in her career, she feels this is exactly where she belongs.
“I think I’m at a point in my career where that’s appropriate,” Murphy said. “I should be on the pay-per-views, so I didn’t really think of how special it is. It’s an honor to be in the UFC, it’s an honor to be in the Top 5 and it’s always an honor to be on a PPV, but this is the kind of fighter I am and where I belong.”
Andrade returns to the Octagon after a nine-month hiatus recovering from a back injury and ensuing surgery. The timeline of her return, and the caliber of opponent she is, made her a perfect matchup for Murphy as she kicks off her 2023 campaign.
“I knew coming into this fight that it will be a tougher fight than my last and that’s why I asked for it,” Murphy said. “I fought Miesha Tate and, to be honest with you, I made it look pretty easy. I really felt like I needed a step up against a tougher opponent on a bigger card and this seemed like a really good opportunity, so that’s why I asked for it.
“Jessica just happened to be the perfect opponent at the perfect time. It lined up for me to get back into camp and to fight somebody like her in her own backyard. That’s a huge challenge, a huge mountain to climb, but that’s the challenge I need to get myself back to the championship.”
UFC 283: Teixeira vs Hill took place live from Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on January 21, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!