It’s still a ronin’s life for UFC strawweight contender Randa Markos. And she likes it that way.
“I’m still living in Windsor and driving all over the place,” she said. “I feel like I’ve found a pretty good fit, but I’m always learning and I’m always learning by experience, so I like where I’m at right now.”
Now if she can get her car to keep cooperating (fingers crossed), her training life of going from gym to gym would be perfect.
“Every day I’m in the shop trying to get it to help me get from place to place,” she laughs. “It’s non-stop.”
But Markos wouldn’t have it any other way. For her past few fights, she’s eschewed the usual method of working with one team or in one gym in favor of taking her show on the road and finding the right place for each MMA discipline. Or more accurately, the right places for her.
“I feel like I made the right call,” Markos said. “Every fighter is different and I knew I hadn’t found what’s right for me. You’ve got to look around in order to find it. I’ve been going from gym to gym to gym, just because things didn’t feel right. You think you’ve got it down and then you fight and it doesn’t go as well as you know you can do, so you’ve got to keep looking. That’s the way I see it. I feel like I’m at a good place now. I created a system that works for me. What works for someone else might not work for me. I like it right now.”
Markos has been to the big gyms and she’s gone the conventional training route, but nothing has felt as right as putting in the miles.
“At big gyms I feel like we’re lost in the mix,” she said. “The thing is, in MMA, everyone’s different. Everyone’s got a different style. You can’t do what everybody else is doing. That’s what I realized being at a big gym. It doesn’t focus on what my skills are. It’s not about the one-on-one attention, it’s about the focus on my style.”
And if you’re looking for results, Markos is starting to deliver them. A win over Juliana Lima was followed by a hard-fought decision loss to Nina Ansaroff before a draw with Marina Rodriguez. But the breakthrough win was in March, when she submitted Angela Hill in the first round, earning her first UFC finish and Performance of the Night bonus.
Now she’s in the strawweight top 15 and momentum is on her side heading into her Saturday showdown with No. 5-ranked Claudia Gadelha. It’s like 2012 all over again.
“It felt like when I first started,” said Markos. “That’s how it was. I’d go in there and finish, first-round submissions and armbars and it brought me back to where I was before. I owe a lot of that to sports psychology. That has really helped me focus. It’s in my head a lot of times when it comes to looking for my strengths, and sports psychology helped me go back to the way I was before.”
In those early days, Markos was still a raw talent, but she was going out there and finishing her opponents. That style earned her a spot on The Ultimate Fighter 20, where her reputation grew even more thanks to upset wins over Tecia Torres and Felice Herrig. She would lose to future 115-pound champion Rose Namajunas in the TUF 20 semis, but the “Quiet Storm” wouldn’t fly under the radar anymore.
She lost her UFC debut via split decision to Jessica Penne in a Fight of the Night scrap, but after winning a 2015 bout over Aisling Daly, a frustrating series of alternating wins and losses plagued the Canadian. Following the loss to Ansaroff, though, Markos changed things up.
“The Nina fight was a huge turning point for me,” she said. “That’s when I started talking to a sports psychologist. I felt like I got caught up in a rut of wins-losses and it got mental for me. I was down on myself and really pissed off at the outcomes of certain fights that I’ve had, but everything happens for a reason and it forced me to focus on my weaknesses and build more on my skills. Getting a draw in the Rodriguez fight made me realize that I need to step it up and change things around.”
It only took her 4:24 to end Hill’s night, and if she can deliver a similar result against Brazil’s Gadelha, the 33-year-old may finally be in striking range of the 115-pound title picture. That sounds good to her.
“It feels like everything I worked really hard for and stuck with is finally paying off,” Markos said. “I’m at the perfect time and opportunity right now and I need to make the most of it.”