Lauren Murphy not letting rankings rattle her, ready for whatever's next, including possible title shot at UFC 247

Elias Cepeda
Yahoo Sports Contributor
(R-L) Lauren Murphy punches Barb Honchak in their women's flyweight bout during the TUF Finale event inside Park Theater on Dec. 1, 2017 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Lauren Murphy (11-4) was understandably confused and upset a couple weeks ago. The flyweight contender took to Twitter to wonder out loud just who is involved in making the “official” UFC rankings, and what criteria they used.

Murphy had just happily agreed to fight an exciting opponent near her new home in Houston at UFC 247, but some bad timing and some rankings changes temporarily soured her on the situation.

“I had an opponent lined up to fight but I don’t think we had a date yet. Still, everybody was agreed on the opponent,” Murphy recounts to Yahoo Sports.

“Then, the UFC called me and pulled that opponent, saying that they didn’t want me to fight her because she was coming off of a loss and was ranked lower than me. They offered me Andrea Lee (11-3) instead and told me it was a good opportunity for me because she was ranked above me and the fight would be in Houston. So I said, ‘hell yeah.’ Fighting up the rankings against a great opponent in a tough fight was an awesome opportunity.”

Then, Murphy says, right around the time she received the bout agreement to fight Lee, who is coming off of a loss as Murphy says her originally proposed opponent was, Murphy discovered that the UFC’s rankings had changed, leaving her in a similar position as before — fighting an opponent lower ranked than her, who was coming off of a loss.

“Then, two days later, the rankings changed. At first it bummed me out,” she admits.

“For some reason, Andrea was bumped down and me and Roxie [Modafferi] moved up.”

Unlike in professional boxing, where promoters are not allowed under law to create their own championship titles and rankings and titles are instead issued independently by outside sanctioning bodies, mixed martial arts and its big league promotion the UFC effectively regulates itself when it comes to titles and rankings. This, of course, creates conflicts of interest that are damaging to fighters where the promotion can and has manipulated rankings to its liking at any given moment.

Though several media members contribute votes to UFC rankings, the promotion has ultimate control over the rankings, and has altered fighters’ rankings or dropped them from the rankings altogether in the past when it suited them, including during contract negotiations. Even the UFC’s “official” rankings are not in any way binding or directly tied to who gets shots at championship belts, however.

This type of unethical business practice is banned in boxing under federal law but the much newer sport of MMA has thus far been able to slip through the cracks, though there are active movements to amend the Ali Act to include MMA.

So, it is little wonder why Murphy was initially upset and suspicious. The fighter has settled into the situation, however, and says she’s no longer upset, and is fully intent on taking advantage of the positives of her circumstances.

“I’m not bummed now,” she explains.

“At first I thought, ‘what the f---? This is messed up.’ But there are a couple good things about it. First, I was bumped up in the rankings, which I feel I deserve, anyway. The other thing is that I’m still fighting someone in the top-10. A win here should bump me up, no matter what.

“Also, the flyweight title is on the same card and, though I’m not expecting this to happen, if someone should pull out of that fight they are going to call the higher-ranked fighter who is coming off of a win to fill-in, and that’s me. So, that also could be a great opportunity and we’re going to be ready for that. I’m not expecting that but after TUF I realized that anything can f---ing happen and so I’m ready for any opportunity.”

It isn’t that Murphy suddenly likes the way rankings in her sport are issued, but she’s trying to focus on what she can control and on taking care of what is in front of her. “It was a little confusing and almost felt like the ‘ol switcharoo,” she admits.

“I took a day to process and actually think it’s a great thing, really awesome. I get to walk out second, which I like. I get to choose the fight kit color. These seem like little things but they help me get in a flow state. I’m learning to roll with punches. That may have been one of the biggest things holding me back. I was taking things too seriously and could get into a space where I’m not having fun anymore. It’s taken me a long time to learn to relax a little and enjoy the process.

“I spent a lot of time not enjoying the process. So, this is just part of things. I’m trying to live with gratitude. There’s nothing I can do about rankings.”

"It’s taken me a long time to learn to relax a little and enjoy the process," Murphy tells us. (Getty Images)

Murphy certainly has worked hard to change things she can, however. For the past year or so she says she’s worked with a new unit of coaches who work well together and who help her tremendously.

Murphy and her spouse Joe recently moved to Texas and she loves living in and working out of the Houston area, especially with her new team. Murphy is riding high after a TKO victory in August, and has now won two out of her last three.

She says newer approaches to nutrition and strength and conditioning have helped her. “Matteo Capodaglio works on my nutrition. I call him my crazy Italian friend. He’s the best at what he does,” she details.

“He’s a little different. Italian culture is a little different and the way he talks about stuff is a little different but the last fight I followed what he said exactly and my weight cut was fantastic, and I had awesome recover. I’ll never go with anyone else on nutrition, again.”

Murphy also overhauled her conditioning with a program overseen by Andy Galpin and assisted by Dennis Koenck. “I really needed help,” she remembers.

“I would get really tired a lot and I wasn’t feeling great when I fought.”

Another friend and coach recommended she focus more on nutrition and strength and conditioning, and Murphy took the advice. Her husband and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Joe Murphy is still an integral part of her training and she works with two striking coaches – Bob Perez, who also coaches heavyweight Derrick Lewis, and Alex Cisne. Murphy praises all of their individual coaching, as well as the selfless way she says they work with one another.

The result is a happy, healthy camp and fighter who has a team focused on her results. “That is one of the best things about it,” she ends.

“They’re all super invested in me and invested with each other. They all respect each other. Alex and Bob are both striking coaches but they listen to each other and respect one another. They each know their stuff and they’re just nice men. They don’t have huge egos. All my coaches are good people. They get along in the corner well. Each week we do Sunday Funday where we spar, roll, wrestle with all my coaches in one place. Then we game plan and talk shop and discuss what’s working and what’s not working. It’s really nice.”

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