Lauren Murphy completed her UFC contract last summer with a decision loss to Katlyn Chookagian, and since then, it’s been a waiting game. Signing a new deal has been a priority for her, but not for the organization, she said.
“I don’t really take it too personally,” Murphy told BloodyElbow.com’s The MMA Circus. “They’re a business. The first two fights that I had in the promotion, I lost both of those, and they were both really boring fights. And that really sucks for me, because, obviously, I don’t think I lost those fights.”
Murphy, 33, was told she would be first in line if a fight came up on short notice, but other than that, it’s been quiet. It got to a point where she and her team began to look at other options, including signing with a different organization like Bellator MMA.
“I’m a fighter — I want to fight. I want to go put the skills I’ve been working on to good use. I like beating people up; I miss it,” she said. “We started talking about like, ‘OK, what are we doing here? Am I gonna wait around on the UFC forever? Am I waiting for the perfect opportunity? Because that’s never gonna come up. Or maybe we can start exploring other options.’”
Just as those discussions started, a new opportunity came to light and she has shifted her focus entirely to that.
The Ultimate Fighter 26 marks the launch of the highly-anticipated UFC women’s flyweight division and will crown the weight class’ first UFC champion. The season will film in July and air on FOX Sports 1 later this year. Tryouts are being held in Las Vegas on Tuesday morning, and Murphy plans on attending.
“This is just a really cool opportunity,” she said. “If I can get on the show, I think it’s a good way to get my face out there and my story out there, and let MMA fans know who I am.
“The truth is, I really wanna fight for the UFC. I’ve fought for other organizations before, and, to me, the UFC is the best. I’d love to continue to fight for them. So this is a good opportunity, I think.”
Murphy has eyed a move down to the 125-pound division for years — ever since she started training at The MMA Lab in Glendale, Ariz., to be exact. But until now, it’s never been a viable option, because the UFC did not promote female fights in the flyweight division.
“When I first moved out here, I had eight fights, but I had never heard of a sodium cut; I didn’t really know how to cut weight,” she said. “The cardio and strength-and-conditioning workouts that they did up here were a lot different than anything I had ever done before. My weight started to go down as I started to get more athletic and more in shape. People started to say, ‘Wow, you’re a really small bantamweight.’”
Even if Murphy does not get accepted for The Ultimate Fighter 26, there is a good chance she’ll drop down and begin to compete at 125 pounds, she said. She feels more fit for the lower weight class, where she would not be undersized versus her opposition.
“I would like that,” she said. “I felt heavy and slow (vs. Chookagian). I think that fighting down a weight class is gonna solve a lot of those problems for me. I’m just working on getting faster, footwork, moving more, and staying in motion.”
The Ultimate Fighter is not for everyone. Some fighters enjoy the experience in the house with several other competitors, while others walk away disappointed and unhappy.
Being on The Ultimate Fighter is an experience Murphy would look forward to, she said. She even wished she had tried out for 2013’s The Ultimate Fighter 18, which featured men’s and women’s bantamweights and was coached by then-champ Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate.
“I enjoy doing things that are difficult. My whole life I’ve been doing things that are difficult,” she said. “I think it’s a good challenge, and I think it’s a good way to find out a lot about yourself.”