The Ultimate Fighter
“It’s been over a year, huh?”
Lauren Murphy laughs when it’s pointed out to her that her last Octagon appearance against Sijara Eubanks took place in June 2018. A year and two months later, Murphy returns from that injury-induced layoff to face Mara Romero Borella this Saturday in Newark, yet she isn’t one to be waxing poetic about the months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds spent waiting to return to battle.
Instead, befitting someone competing in a promotion with the tagline “As real as it gets,” Murphy gets right down to business, having little time for anything but a straight line from one point to another. Call her the most honest woman in the fight game, and she won’t disagree.
“I have kept it real from the beginning and I will until the end,” she said.
Case in point, her response to a question wondering what she missed the most over the last 14 months, and she gives an answer you don’t hear that much. It’s not about the heat of competition, the money, the glory or any of those things.
“I missed getting my hand raised, and then the week after the fight, when all the craziness is said and done, you get to go home and see all your friends,” she said. “I miss having all that build-up, then going to the fight, doing what I can do, and then having the time after the fight, because that’s super special to me. Just being with my closest people and celebrating a good victory, eating a ton of food and being able to relax again. I think that’s a really special and important time. Those are the good times that make everything worth it.”
If we were prizefighters, that’s what we would want, too. Some fighters are back in the gym the Monday after the fight; others claim that they only feel joy for 30 seconds after a win and then it’s off to thinking about the next fight. Murphy is different, and she’s chasing different things in this sport along with the usual suspects like belts, wins, etc.
So it didn’t come as a shock when she left her longtime MMA Lab team in Arizona to go back to Houston to some familiar faces with Gracie Barra Katy and Main Street Muay Thai. It just felt like the right move at the right time.
“This is the camp that took me through Legacy and through Invicta ad I went 4-0 with this camp before I got into the UFC,” she said. “I went 2-4 at The Lab and I just felt it was time for a change. It’s nice to be around really positive people that want to see me win and they’re invested in me and my future and they believe in me. They’re proud of me.”
Murphy obviously feels good about her decision and it appears to have worked for her in the lead-up to this weekend’s fight, but it’s also risky for a top ten flyweight contender to change course midstream while at the top level of the sport. Murphy agrees, but that didn’t stop her.
“Life is about taking risks,” she said. “And, as fighters, that’s what we do all the time. And I’m willing to gamble on myself. The team that I’m with, I love them and they love me and I’ve actually had the best camp that I’ve ever had. I really enjoyed the process this camp, I’ve gotten to meet and work with some really amazing people and I’m going into this fight feeling like I’ve done everything I possibly can to give myself the best chance of winning. So, to me, that’s a risk worth taking for sure. I’m not the kind of person that wants to stay somewhere familiar just because it’s familiar. I’d rather take a risk and see if it’s gonna work out for me than always wonder what if?”
At 36, Murphy doesn’t have time for what ifs. She has to chase after what she wants now, and that’s precisely her intention. Luckily (pardon the pun), she’s in a fairly new weight class where the title picture is wide open. A couple more wins at 125 pounds, and Murphy could be in the race for a shot at the belt. And while she knows all this, it’s really all about the here and now for her, and having her new (actually old) squad in her corner has her excited about her return to active duty.
“It’s extremely important and it takes a lot of pressure off,” said Murphy. “I can go in there and just fight and have fun and enjoy my career and be proud of the fact that I’ve done everything I can do. And look how far it’s brought me; I’m ranked in the top ten in the UFC. That’s amazing, that’s crazy, and I’m gonna do everything I can to climb the rankings even more, hopefully get into the top five, and having people behind me that love me and believe in me, I think fighters need that because we do have a hard job and what we do is mentally taxing. And you can’t have people around you that are just gonna bring you down even more. You have to have people that are there to lift you up when you’re feeling down and it’s given me a lot of gratitude as well, and I think that’s super important.”