Lauren Murphy is one of the most under-appreciated women bantamweight fighters. She started her career with an eight-fight perfect win streak in which she managed to gain victories over the likes of MMA pioneer Kaitlin Young, famed flyweight Sarah D’Alelio and kickboxing great Miriam Nakamuto. In the process, she even went on to become the first ever Invicta FC bantamweight champion as well as the Alaska Fighting bantamweight and featherweight titleholder. All these facts should have led to a decorated resume but because of cases of bad fight judgement she dropped a razor thin decision to Sara McMann and a controversial decision to Liz Carmouche. She managed to bounce back from these losses as she destroyed then undefeated Kelly Faszholz in a super match. This was followed by losing a thin decision to Katlyn Chookagian, in which Murphy was credited for taking the action forward.
Lauren agreed to answer few questions surrounding her future, callouts and thoughts on a few hot topics.
What got you into MMA? Who was your influence? What is your combat sport background?
I don’t have a sport background. I had never really played any sport until I started training jiu jitsu at age 26. I got into it because I took my son to a children’s jiu jitsu class. I didn’t know what it was, I just took him to a martial arts school that I picked out of the phone book. It just happened that school was a Gracie Barra that had a fight team. I took jiu jitsu in the adult class to support my son, and I loved it. After a month or so I started taking boxing lessons and practicing with the fight team that was there. The guys on the team at that time were super shitty to me at first, so I kept going because I wanted to get good enough to kick their asses someday. I always wondered what it would be like to fight and after a few months I took a pro fight just to say I did it. After that we got a new coach, a better team, and more fights. It became my life.
Did people around you support the decision of taking this sport as a career?
No. My ex-husband, who I was married to at the time, hated it. He felt threatened, I think, like he was somehow less of a man if his wife learned how to defend herself, I guess. He kept telling me how it was gross and violent. He did not go to my first fight. We divorced not long after that.
The rest of my family just figured it was me doing something crazy, I guess. They supported it but I think it still shocked them all at how much martial arts changed my life and made it so much better, and how serious I’ve become about it and how far we’ve taken it.
What’s the story behind your nickname “Lucky”?
It’s just a reminder to me how lucky I really am. I strongly feel that I won my first two fights in the UFC, and that the decisions that were handed down in those fights were very unlucky. Someone made the comment that I must be the unluckiest person in the UFC, which made me laugh. I’m actually the luckiest person in the UFC. I have a great family, a wonderful life, a job I love, I’m surrounded by good friends, I’m financially comfortable, etc. The way I was living before I started training, I should be in prison, or dead. I could easily be working a dead-end job, living in a place I hate, in bad relationships, etc. But instead I’m very happy, surrounded by great people doing what I love. I’m very, very lucky. Bad decisions in the UFC don’t change that. Me being in the UFC at all is kind of a fucking miracle, to hold my own against women in the top 10, and have the life that I have….I’m one of the luckiest people on earth.
You started your UFC career with two losses. In both cases, many major media outlets had the fight for you. Thoughts on the decisions?
I think they were poor decisions on the part of the judges. The rules have been changed recently to prevent fighters from laying and praying like Sara McMann did to me. And Liz Carmouche, in my opinion, should have been disqualified for timidity when we fought. She did everything in her power to engage as little as possible in that fight.
More than being losses, I regret how boring those fights were. I hate having boring fights. But I think everyone knows that those two women in particular -Sara and Liz- are the two most boring women in the division, and possibly the most boring fighters to watch in the entire UFC. So, after I fought them I resolved to not have a boring fight no matter what. And lo and behold, my third fight in the UFC was against a tough woman who wanted to actually fight, and we received fight of the night.
We recently saw Liz Carmouche clash against Katlyn Chookagian. Both had their last victories against you. Thoughts on the match?
Well, I don’t think Liz actually has a “victory” over me, I think she pretty clearly lost the fight we had. The judges got that one wrong, and even Liz and her coach know it. I think Katlyn Chookagian is a good fighter, I just didn’t like that she tried to engage as little as possible and then had a SUPER shitty attitude after the fight. She almost knocked Liz out and actually came forward in their fight, which isn’t how she fought me. And Liz just grabbed her, threw her down, and held her there. She did zero damage. When Katlyn gets taken down she pulls a body triangle from bottom, which is not offensive at all, it’s just a stalling position. So whatever. The head kick Katlyn landed was exciting and Liz is tough, but any fight Liz is in is bound to be boring. I think Katlyn is a good fighter and is going to do well in the UFC, I just wasn’t a fan of her shitty attitude after our fight.
You now hold a UFC record of 1-3. Are you still signed with the UFC? What are your plans for your next fight? Ketlen Vieira called you out for a match, your response?
Yes, I would happily fight Ketlen, and whoop her ass. I don’t know what my next move is. Sean [Shelby] said they’d give me a call if they need me to fill in for a fight, which I’m happy to do if they don’t want to let me fight Ketlen. Right now, I just wake up in the morning, enjoy my training and try to learn as much as I can so that when that call comes I will be ready.
A recent critique which caught my eye was “Murphy was never really given the chance to showcase her talent. She is lost in the shuffles of the UFC bantamweight division. It is unfair that Murphy wasn’t given a fair shot at the UFC as she became a victim to bad judgement”. Thoughts on the statement?
Ha! I think that’s a fair and accurate statement. I should be 3-1 in the UFC, 2-2 at the very worst. Also, I am one of those fighters who comes forward and throws down, I don’t mind brawling and am pretty good everywhere. I think there are several women in the top 10 I could beat, and believe I could have good, competitive fights with anyone else. So, it’s unfortunate that the fans are stuck watching fighters like McMann and Carmouche, who are boring and hard to watch, and fighters like me, who fight hard and have good fights, are on the sidelines. But it’s out of my control so I just have to shrug my shoulders and move on.
What are your thoughts on the growth of women’s MMA? What are your thoughts on the position of women in the MMA world?
Women are getting better and more skilled. There’s a new generation of female fighters coming up who are better than the pioneers of the sport. And there will be a generation after that of women who are even better. The men in MMA took the same path the women did, they just got started sooner. It’s pretty cool to watch, really.
A hot topic being discussed is creation of more female divisions in the UFC. Do you agree with it? Fans have demanded the creation of a female 145 division, thoughts?
I don’t think there are enough women in the 145 division to really create one for the UFC. Can anyone name 10 UFC level featherweights? NOT including ones already signed with Bellator? I can’t name 10 good featherweights. I can name like….seven, maybe. And a couple of them are in Bellator. That’s not enough to make a whole division. If you only have 10 or 12 women in the division, they all fight each other in a few months and then the UFC is out of options as far as matchups in that division. And Cris Cyborg would run through all of them. I don’t think there is a featherweight out there who is even close to her as far as MMA competition.
Invicta is doing a good job bringing women up in that division, and discovering talent, but as far as creating a division in the UFC right this second…I don’t think so. Maybe in a year or two or three.
A 125 division might work but a lot of us from 135 would go down and a few 115ers would go up, thinning out the two divisions already in place.
It’s not as easy as just creating divisions for one or two fighters. A lot of people that are clamoring for that kind of thing want to see Cris Cyborg fight in the UFC and I don’t blame them, but you can’t just snap your fingers and create a whole division out of thin air.
Pay of MMA fighters have been a topic which has caught many eyes. Many fighters have complained about their pay and how others are receiving more pay despite not producing good results. What is your take on the situation?
Of course it’s unfair. The UFC just sold for 4 BILLION dollars. You’ve got men and women training full time, trying to be the best fighter on Earth, competing at the highest level, making below poverty level pay. Guys living in their cars, sleeping on couches, living at the gyms. How can anyone be at their best training like that? Success does happen in those situations, but I always wonder how good those guys could really be if they could rest, eat and train to their full potential.
The other option is to get a part time or even full time job. It’s a gamble. You’ll have a paycheck and maybe a place to sleep and food to eat, but you’re giving up a lot of training and rest time for that, which again, will hinder performance in the cage. Some guys work full time jobs and are so talented they can have careers as fighters also, but I don’t think that’s the norm, nor should it be the norm.
The pay scale seems to be arbitrary. You’ve got Jessica Eye who is making something like 30k/30k, but she’s on a four fight losing streak in the UFC. I’m not even sure why she’s still on the roster, much less why she would be making more than some of the guys. I have a teammate who is 3-1 in the UFC with his only loss being a FOTN split decision, and he makes less than that. He recently got a part time job working nights which cut into his morning practices. And he’s coming off two wins in a row. How is that fair at all? It’s not.
I don’t know all the answers, but I know that the sport is still fairly new and has a long way to go. Fighter pay is a big conversation that I think will be changing soon. You would think the UFC would be eager to sort out the pay rate thing, either by paying fighters a monthly stipend, or paying them more, or something like that, so that the fighters could train better and improve more. By doing that, performances in the cage would improve, attract more viewers, etc. But what do I know.
Another problem is that there isn’t a lot of incentive for the UFC to pay fighters more. Promotions under the UFC pay like half, or less, what guys are making in the UFC. So the UFC doesn’t make new fighters rich, but they pay more than anyone else. Not only that, but you got a bazillion dudes out there who would fight in the UFC for free, just to say they fought in the UFC. So for every guy IN the UFC who wants more money, you got like 10 guys outside the UFC that will happily take his spot for less money. They would take it for NO money.
A fighters union is a topic which many fighters are talking about. Do you think there should be a fighters union? Why? Who should lead it? What points should be kept in mind while creating it?
Like I said, I don’t know all the answers. And I’m not familiar enough with how unions work to really speak on the matter. All I know is that I would hope that a union would benefit the fighters, not give someone else even more control over them and more opportunities to screw them over.
When I think of unions, I always think of the scumbag managers I’ve met in this sport. The last manager I had, before the guy I’m with now, I caught actually stealing money from me. it was a really shitty, scumbag thing for him to be doing. He would lie to me about conversations he had with Sean Shelby, who is my matchmaker in the UFC, and pulled some other shady stuff with sponsorships, contracts, etc. When I think of unions, I think that if a guy like that is running it, the fighters are doomed. So the fighters need to be REALLY careful about who they unionize with and how it’s operated, because there are a lot of shady, shitty people in this sport who will take advantage of young hungry athletes.
What challenge have you faced in your journey? Who all would you like to credit for your success?
Its all been a challenge, which I guess is what makes it great. If it wasn’t a challenge, it wouldn’t be worth while. Starting late in life, moving to a few different camps, balancing raising a kid, working and training, dealing with unfair decisions and the frustration of not getting the fights I dream about. Learning how to be a good teammate. Staying in the gym even when I don’t want to, training through the low times and the high times too. It’s all been a challenge, but I’ve grown so much as a person because of this sport it’s been worth it. Almost everything good I have in my life, I have because of MMA and jiu jitsu.
What is your message for every person who wants to take MMA as a career?
It’s worth it. Some days it will feel like it’s not, but it is. Be consistent. Also, don’t shit where you eat.
Thanks for your time.
Follow Lauren Murphy on Twitter at @LaurenMurphyMMA
Follow Paarth at @PandePaarth