Arriving in a partially shut-down Las Vegas for a fight that won’t have a live audience in a smaller Octagon doesn’t really qualify as the strangest set of circumstances Lauren Murphy has witnessed in her MMA career.
“It’s not the weirdest, really,” she explains. “In Alaska I went to a fight that a bunch of my teammates were on. For one thing, it was PRIDE rules, which was insane. It was in a ring, which was crazy. It was MMA and boxing matches on the same card. Everybody warmed up in a barn and then went and fought in this tent…it was crazy.”
Ok, that is objectively crazy. Taken comparatively, meeting Roxanne Modafferi without spectators on this Saturday’s Fight Night: Blaydes vs Volkov prelims would have a hard time making the cut.
Noting the spacious and comfortable confines of her Vegas hotel room, it feels far from an inconvenience.
“I’m really enjoying the novelty of it and having our own private workout rooms and stuff like that.”
‘Novelty’ is a generous term to describe the last few months, but the former Invicta bantamweight champ sounds like she has taken it all in stride, even without the full benefits of a traditional camp.
“Actually, I really enjoyed it during the quarantine, she explains. “I had a really good time. I enjoyed getting better at stuff I needed to work on and focus on the things I needed versus going to a practice where somebody else decides what we’re doing. It was like, this is what Lauren needs to get better at, so this is what we’re going to do.”
If you worked as an accountant during the pandemic, you likely worked from home on a laptop. It wasn’t so much different than if you made your living punching people in the face. Running outside instead of on a treadmill was an adjustment. So was using an Airdyne bike instead of a swimming pool. But professionals still find a way.
“I trained at home a lot,” she explains. “My husband is a jiu-jitsu black belt, so we got private jiu-jitsu several times a week. Zebra Athletics hooked me up with some mats for my house. We have a really, really nice mat room. It’s got wall mats and everything. I picked one or two really close training partners and really killed it during the quarantine. We drilled a lot at my house. We drilled the same stuff over and over and over again. So, I was really able to get good at some of the things that I really wanted to work on.”
Putting in good work is essential in any game plan that aims to defeat Modaferri, her former castmate on The Ultimate Fighter 26. While both women have been OGs of the scarcely three-year old women’s flyweight division, Murphy is quick to acknowledge her veteran opponent’s role in women’s MMA as a whole.
“She was already in the game for quite a while when I first started. She was one of the women I really, really looked up to,” Murphy explains. “When I first started fighting, Roxanne was fighting for the Strikeforce title, so she’s been around a lot longer than me. She has four or five times as many fights as me; something crazy like that.”
Full of mutual respect, the pair now find themselves amongst the elite in their division, in striking distance of the ultimate prize. Murphy seems to relish every chapter of the story.
“It’s cool to be part of a new division and watch everything develop the way that it has been. I’m super proud that I’ve been in the rankings the entire time. I started off really high in the rankings and then the division kind of developed a little bit. I had an injury, I was out for a while, and now I feel like I’ve really earned my way back to the top, which feels really good, rather than having the rankings decided off of a reality show.”
“I’ve fought tough people,” she continues. “The UFC has always given me tough opponents. I fought really tough people at 135 and I’ve fought super tough people at 125: Barb Honchak, Sijara Eubanks, Mara Borella was ranked number 12 when I knocked her out. Then I fought Andrea Lee, who is one of the toughest fights in the division, and now I’m fighting someone in the Top 5. I really feel like I’ve been fighting the best of the best. I’m really proud.”
She should be. They call her “Lucky,” but who needs luck when you’re good?