Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
After leaving Abu Dhabi with a ton of momentum, Lauren Murphy has had a bit of a roller coaster right to say the least.
Murphy earned her fourth straight victory at UFC 254 when she submitted Liliya Shakirova in the second round in a main card flyweight matchup. It was the first submission win of her career and, after well thought out and honest comments in her post-fight interviews, it seemed as if her options were a plenty.
One of those options was a re-booking with Cynthia Calvillo, Murphy’s originally scheduled opponent for October’s PPV event. Calvillo was forced out of the matchup after testing positive for COVID-19.
Calvillo recently spoke to MMA Fighting about and revealed she wasn’t impressed with Murphy’s performance and stated that she felt Murphy took “an easy paycheck” to remain on the card. While Calvillo said “Lucky” was on the top of her wish list, she ended up booking a fight with former title challenger Katlyn Chookagian at UFC 255.
Both Calvillo and Murphy confirmed to MMA Fighting that the UFC had offered to reschedule their matchup at the Nov. 21 event, but Murphy—having just competed—wanted to book the fight in December. That’s when things, according to Murphy, started to turn in an unexpected direction.
“I thought we decided on Dec. 12,” Murphy said of a potential matchup with Calvillo while appearing on MMA Fighting’s What the Heck. “That all, I think, got f*cked up on my end because we started talking to the UFC, we’ll turn around to fight Cynthia, we started talking about what it would be like to be an alternate on the 21st in case (Jennifer) Maia doesn’t make weight (for her title fight with Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 255) . I was like, ‘If anyone’s gonna be an alternate, it should f*ckin be me.’ I’ll turn around and be an alternate because on the other side of that I might be able to fight for a UFC title.
“Cynthia could f*ckin wait two weeks while I get my sh*t together, rest a little bit and then I’m in top shape to fight her and then it could [potentially] be a No. 1 contender fight. The timeline would’ve been f*cked up to fight her on the 21st and it definitely wasn’t in my best interest. I’m not gonna do Cynthia any f*ckin favors. Who’s taking the easy way now? You took a completely different fight. F*ck off.”
Since April 2019, Murphy had decided to go without management as she was climbing the ranks of the flyweight division. After picking up wins over Shakirova, Mara Romero Borella, Andrea Lee and Roxanne Modafferi, the Houston native has put herself in a position where a title shot is very close to becoming reality.
While she was negotiating a potential matchup with Calvillo, along with the possibility of stepping in as an alternate for the championship bout between Shevchenko and Maia, Murphy realized that when you get to a certain level, things can change rapidly from a business perspective. With that, she made an unexpected change herself.
“I started talking to the UFC and I just realized I’m way out of my league negotiating with these guys,” Murphy explained. “They are the best business men in the world. Negotiating with the UFC, I was so far out of my f*cking league that to them, it must have been like playing chess with someone who just learned how to play checkers. I was way out of my league and I was like, ‘F*ck, I need some help with these numbers and what does it mean for my career?’
“I never wanted to sign with (another) management company, I really didn’t want to sign with a manager but I signed with First Round because I f*ckin needed help. I signed with Lou DiBono and I was really f*ckin nervous about it. Lou knows how I feel about managers. I told him, ‘Look man, I’ve had three managers in my career and all three turned out to be sh*t birds, I’m super nervous about this.’”
Despite the ins and outs of contractual language being, admittedly, over her head, Murphy wants to make one thing crystal clear: there is no issue with the UFC, the matchmakers, or anybody involved with the company. It all comes down to having focus on the task at hand, and that’s earning a championship opportunity no matter who she has to fight next.
“I’m happy with my job,” Murphy stated. “I f*ckin love to fight. I want to fight fight Cynthia, I want to fight Andrade, I want to fight Chookagian again, I want these fights. It’s hard because I just want to f*cking fight because that’s what I’m best at in the world. I have people around me like my husband, my coaches, other fighters that I know that have management teams and I see what’s going on with them and I’m hearing, ‘You should ask for this. You should go for that. You should try for this.’
“So when we started talking about being an alternate, it was like, okay: you’re talking about possibly stepping in to fight for the f*ckin championship. This was just something I was thinking to myself. I have whatever contract I have with the UFC now, and on top of that we’re going to be talking about fighting for the championship. These are big f*ckin contracts and it means something. I was talking to Mick about a couple of things and after a conversation or two I realized that we’re barely speaking the same f*ckin language.
“Mick deals with this stuff all day, every day. He knows what the f*ck he’s doing and it just became apparent real quick that I can’t keep up with those guys. It’s not my job and it was really stressing me out to try. I was really stressed about it. I would rather pay to have somebody stress about this for me, but it has to be someone that’s good at their job, not someone who is basically working for the UFC.”
In her last conversation with the UFC, it seemed like signs were pointing towards a matchup with Calvillo at UFC 256 on Dec. 12. Murphy decided to rest and fell asleep, and when she awoke, she saw the initial report that Calvillo was now fighting Chookagian on Nov. 21.
“I woke up from a nap and was like, ‘What the f*ck? I thought I was gonna fight Calvillo’” Murphy said. “I was sad because I wanted that fight and I was looking forward to getting four fights in this year—it’s still possible, obviously—but it was just f*ckin sad. I don’t think it’s a No. 1 contender fight for them. I mean how could it be? The whole timeline is messed up and Chookagian is coming off a first-round TKO loss. You can’t tell me that’s a No. 1 contender fight.
“It is good that Cynthia gets to get in there, she gets to make a paycheck and a quick turnaround after getting COVID. I think I can fight the winner of that fight, or I can fight Andrade. Honestly, I’m good. I fought a lot this year. I wasn’t planning on turning around and fighting that quick, but I would have since it had already been booked.
“Andrade is definitely an option and she’s obviosuly not afraid to fight. I want to earn my No. 1 contender spot and I’m happy to f*ckin fight. Andrade would be such a great challenge and that would be such a great f*cking fight. I think Andrade is a great option, but now that’s Lou’s problem. I don’t have to worry about it any more.”