UFC flyweight Lauren Murphy capped off a frustrating run on The Ultimate Fighter with a victory over former Invicta champ Barb Honchak on Finale night back in December. Now ‘Lucky’ takes on Sijara Eubanks at UFC Fight Night: Rivera vs. Moraes in Utica, NY.
When Bloody Elbow caught up with Murphy, she was asked how she felt about her win over Honchak (whom many favoured to win her season of TUF and the UFC flyweight title that came with it). Murphy said she was pleased to move her record to 9-3, but also that she was far more content because of things that happened outside of the Octagon.
“I was definitely the asshole of the show and I didn’t mean to be,” said Murphy when reminiscing on 2017. “And it was surprising to me how much vitriol and hate that was directed at me, based on my actions on the show. I remember writing about it while I was on there and I remember being like, ‘S**t, I’m going to be the asshole of the season.’ I know there is usually one, they have to have one, or the season would be super boring. And I was like, ‘Oh, it will be OK because people will understand why I left Team Alvarez and they’ll show some of the stuff that Ed did and people will get it.’
“For the most part, I got along with everybody and I was actually kind of shocked to see what a monster they made me! They just showed all of the s—ty stuff and none of the good stuff and that kind of shocks me.”
Murphy chuckled as she described her time in the TUF house and her first impressions of her edit. However, she grew more serious when talking about her lowest times during the aftermath of the reality show.
“Looking back, when the show was airing, I was really having a hard time,” revealed Murphy. “I would talk to my husband and ask, ‘Maybe I am a bad person. Maybe I’m a piece of s—t. Maybe I’m not right for this and not a good fighter.’ And my poor husband, he just goes, ‘You can’t fall into this trap. You have to remember who you are and just stay true to yourself. You could have just sat down and shut up for the whole of that season, but that’s not you and that’s not the woman I married. That’s not the kind of woman that I want to married to.’”
“Hearing that and to feel so much love and feel so much gratitude, after all I had gone through, that was really the best feeling,” continued Murphy. “The win was great. Barb’s a tough opponent. The win was wonderful, but really to overcome the sadness that I felt and the frustration that I felt — it really was such a frustrating experience — to overcome that and still perform well was one of the best achievements of my MMA career so far.”
In addition to finding joy in the support of those closest to her, Murphy is also buoyed by something new that she experienced the last time she stepped inside the Octagon; a feeling of comfort.
“I remember standing there as Barb was walking out, I was looking across the arena, and I was struck at how comfortable I felt,” said Murphy. “I’ve never felt like that before, certainly not in the UFC. I just was overwhelmed with this feeling that I do belong here and I felt very centered. That was really cool and I think it was one of the biggest steps I’ve taken in my UFC career, just to be comfortable in there and being able to think and breath.”
Murphy claimed this level of comfort allowed her to utilize her technique in a way she couldn’t in previous UFC fights. “To have that come together for me that night, after having such an emotional roller coaster, really said a lot about how hard I worked; not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.”
The win catapulted Murphy into third place in the burgeoning UFC women’s flyweight division, behind only her opponent Eubanks, Valentina Shevchenko, and inaugural champ Nicco Montano.
“It’s awesome!” enthused Murphy when asked how it felt to be ranked so highly, adding that she felt her position was well deserved given her resume.
“I feel like I’m just as good as any of these girls at the top of the division,” she said. “Even at 135, I fought the best girls at 135. All my losses are really close, some of them are super controversial losses. I’ve only lost three times in my career. I’ve got seven finishes, so I think I have a really good resume. And since I got to the UFC, all I’ve fought are UFC title challengers and undefeated women. To have the resume that I have, I think that says a lot about my work ethic and how talented I really am.”
Murphy’s Friday night opponent Eubanks exceeded expectations on TUF when defeating well established talent such as Roxanne Modafferi and DeAnna Bennett. However, as a professional mixed martial artist, ‘Sarj’s record is only 2-2.
When asked if she thought her obvious pro MMA experience advantage over Eubanks would be a telling factor in their fight. Murphy scoffed. “I don’t really take records too seriously in MMA anymore. I used to, but it just doesn’t matter.”
Murphy said a turning point when it came to judging fighter’s based on their records was when she faced Kelly Faszholz at UFC Fight Night 83 in 2016. “She walked into the Octagon and she’d only had three pro fights and we had a war!”
“Sijara’s been a competitor for a long time and that counts for a lot,” added Murphy. “It’s not like she lacks experience being an athlete and she’s really good and she knows how to compete.”
Murphy stated she’s also not taking Eubanks lightly because of her experience working one-on-one with her during her time on TUF. Murphy said she was particularly impressed by Eubanks mindset and mental toughness.
On the show, the pair had “a pretty good vibe”, according to Murphy. However, she did admit that things got “a little iffy” when she tried to take Eubank’s spot in the tournament when it appeared the BJJ black belt was going to miss weight for her quarter-final fight with Bennett.
“I think it’s something a good competitor would do, and I think Sijara knows that,” said Murphy. This situation in the house repeated itself in the moments leading up to the season finale.
Eubanks was scheduled to fight Montano for the title, but had to withdraw when she was hospitalized during her weight cut. Murphy was in town and without an opponent after Priscila Cachoeira couldn’t get a visa. Murphy committed to making weight so she could fill in to fight Montano if needed. However, Modafferi was given the title shot and Murphy received ‘The Happy Warrior’s original opponent (Honchak).
Since this Murphy said her and Eubanks hadn’t really communicated, but she doesn’t think there is any bad blood between them.
The situation that played out throughout The Ultimate Fighter and the finale has taught Murphy to stay flexible in fight business. “Literally anything can happen,” she said. “So that’s actually one of the things that I learned on show; try not to worry about other people, just worry about my God damn self and take each day as it comes. And I’ve done a lot better job of that, with the help of my husband, my children, and my team. So we’re really prepared for anything.”
You can see how prepared Murphy is for the second pro flyweight fight of her UFC career on Friday night. Sijara Eubanks vs. Lauren Murphy is the main event of the FS1 Prelims card. It begins at 8PM ET.