Back in February, at UFC Fight Night 83 in Pittsburgh, PA, Lauren Murphy let it all hang out. In front of a blue-collar crowd she and late-replacement Kelly Faszholz slugged each other until a bloodied Faszholz could defend herself no more. The referee stepped between the women in the dying seconds of the last round and then raised Murphy’s crimson soaked mitt in victory. It had been a long time coming.
Murphy, a former Invicta champion, is now 9-2 in the UFC and is ranked 13th in the women’s bantamweight division. The only blotches on her record are close decision losses to title challengers Liz Carmouche and Sara McMann. Those disappointing results, in her past two UFC appearances, helped make the impressive stoppage victory over Faszholz feel even sweeter.
“I just kept thinking over and over, this is my victory and nobody can take it from me,” Murphy told Bloody Elbow. “It was a finish, so nobody could screw me out of another decision, if those judges would have screwed me one more time, I don’t know what I would have done, probably retired and changed my name, and moved far away.
“I was just so excited to know I could go home and go to sleep that night and know victory was mine, and I had earned it, and nobody could dispute it, ever,” continued Murphy, who relished the fight itself as much as its outcome. “I love being in a good fight,” enthused Murphy. “That fight with Kelly was the funnest fight I’ve had in – I don’t even know – it may be the funnest fight ever, I was just out there having a blast, I was enjoying myself, I think she was too. I think we were both just so in the moment, and having a good time putting our skills on display.”
Murphy admitted that she underestimated Faszholz, who stepped in to face her after Sarah Moras became injured on a week’s notice. And she was surprised by the UFC debutante’s cardio and toughness. Faszholz’s toughness was hard to ignore, as she hung on in the fight despite taking a brutal amount of punishment. Whereas many onlookers may have squirmed in discomfort at the bloody mask Faszholz wore for most of the bout, Murphy’s reaction couldn’t have been more different.
“I love it.” Murphy talked about spilling blood the way other people talk about their favourite bands playing on the radio. “I don’t mean this in a sexual way, but it turns me on,” explained Murphy. “It just flips that switch in my mind, where it’s like, alright, let’s do this now, now I’m doing some damage, everyone can see I’m doing some damage, and it’s time to go, so it flicks that switch for me where I turn everything up. And I hit pretty hard. To know what I am doing is working, man, is there any better feeling than that?”
Whatever she was doing, it got the crowd on their feet, but more importantly it moved the UFC brass, who decided to reward Murphy and Faszholz with the coveted Fight of the Night bonus. Being awarded an extra $50,000 was “almost surreal” according to Murphy, who had been watching the fight-card play out with her husband, evaluating her competition for the prize.
“We were kinda building up to it and were watching all the other fights that night,” recalled Murphy. “We were going, ‘Oh, that one wasn’t as good as ours, ok that fight wasn’t as good as ours, well that fight wasn’t as good as ours!’ And we just kept saying that over and over again.”
Murphy said the bonus money is mostly gone now, having been used to pay off student loan debt which had been ‘weighing down’ her family. The money that was left over has been set aside for something far more fun.
“[With that money] my husband and I can take a nice vacation at some point,” revealed Murphy, excitedly. “Something really extravagant and lavish that we would never normally do, because we figured we better put this money aside. We might not win another bonus, we might never get that windfall ever again.”
That windfall may not have come this time either, had Murphy not already won a different, and more intimate, kind of fight. “I’m a pretty emotional person,” chuckled Murphy. “Before I fought Liz Carmouche I was actually in the back and I was crying.”
“I was just so overwhelmed by the moment,” recalled Murphy. “I was sure I was going to beat her, I was really excited to get my first UFC win, to be ranked in the top ten, and I think all that emotion just… it wasn’t good, I think all that emotion that I had kind of overrode everything else that I had. I didn’t think clearly, I didn’t pull the trigger, I didn’t really go for it, so I lost that fight with Liz and I think a big part of that is just where I was mentally.”
For the Faszholz fight Murphy and her team focused on keeping her calm in the build-up and re-prioritizing performance over result. This was part of a long process that began when Murphy started working with sports psychologist Jim Afremow – whom Murphy contacted after her loss to Carmouche in April 2015.
“I could have done better,” sighed Murphy, as she remembered how she felt watching Carmouche’s hand raised over her own. “The worst thing I think for a fighter, is to go out there and not do your best and know that you lost a fight because you didn’t do your best, and that had never really happened to me before.”
“And some of my friends that were really close to me were like, ‘Lauren, maybe you should think about seeing a sport psych.’ I’d been having really bad training sessions, I thought that I was one of the worst people in the gym, and I would cry all the time, and I know fighters cry, but I would cry in the middle of my rounds, I would be like sparring guys and crying while I was doing it, I would just say the worst s**t about myself, out loud at times, I just felt like I was a terrible fighter.
“So I called [Afremow] up and said what was going on, we met once a week, for a long time and now we just kind of meet whenever I have a fight coming up, and we just talk about certain things that I could physically do that would help me get in the right mindset to do my best.
“So it’s not even about winning and losing anymore,” concluded Murphy. “It is about being the best me that I can be, because really what else can we ask for, right? I can always get like another Fight of the Night, Performance of the Night, or have just a really good f**king fight and even if I lose those kind of fights, I’ll always be able to look back on those and say, well I did my best, there’s nothing more I could have done, and I can sleep at night, knowing that.”
Murphy hopes to put in another performance she is proud of on July 13th, when she takes on UFC newcomer Katlyn Chookagian (7-0) at UFC Fight Night 91 in South Dakota. If you’re not that familiar with Murphy’s next opponent, you’re not alone. “I actually don’t know much about her to tell you the truth,” admitted Murphy. “I think she’s pretty good. She’s really long, she’s like 5’9″ or something, she’s really long-legged.” Murphy added that she expected Chookagian, a Renzo Gracie brown belt, to be a threat on the ground. Although, she doesn’t think it’s anything she’s not seen before. “My husband is a long-legged brown belt and I’ve rolled with him more than anyone else over the years.”
Murphy versus Chookagian is currently slated to be the third fight on the FOX Sports 1 prelim card. Though Murphy likes competing on UFC Fight Pass (so she can be done early and enjoy the remaining fights) she’s excited to fight in front of a TV audience. “They put me on TV because I deserve to be on TV, I had a great f**king fight last time, and that’s why they put me in that spot.”
If you follow Murphy on twitter you’d be aware that there’s something else on TV that she’s especially passionate about, HBO’s Game of Thrones. Along with asking the Alaskan-born fighter for a prediction on her upcoming bout (which she gave as an all-out war resulting in a TKO win), Murphy was asked to predict what she thinks will happen in the next season of the hit show. *Spoilers alert
Game Of Thrones got me like pic.twitter.com/FaQWev3gOp
— Lauren Murphy (@LaurenMurphyMMA) June 27, 2016
“I think, ok so Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen are going to get together,” said Murphy, unable to hide her enthusiasm for the subject matter. “I know that Targaryens, like, brothers and sisters married like all the time, and I think actually [Jon and Daenerys] are like aunt and nephew, something like that. I know the Targaryans are into all that kind of sh*t, so they might hook up and get married and rule the seven kingdoms together which would be pretty f**king sweet!” Murphy also admitted being excited to see how wicked Lannister queen Cercei meets her demise in the cutthroat series.
Asked whom she most identified with in the long-running adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s book series, Murphy knew exactly who to choose. “Arya Stark,” she revealed. “I just think, you know, she kinda had it rough, nothing was ever given to her and she fought for everything she ever had and she’s been successful at what she does. And I think it was just unexpected, and I think that reminds me of my life. Nothing was ever handed to me, I was never supposed to be here, nobody ever thought I’d be here, and here I am f**kers.”
You can follow Lauren Murphy on twitter @LaurenMurphyMMA
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