If you know anything about Lauren Murphy, you know she has fought her ass off to get where she is.

She and husband, Joe, created a list of goals for themselves going into 2013. Murphy’s goals included training in Thailand, earning a personal trainer certification, and competing in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Worlds tournament. Instead, in 2013, Murphy became a world champion. In fact, she became the first Invicta bantamweight champion. Along with her title belt, Murphy competed in three jiu-jitsu tournaments, including the NoGi Worlds, and she went undefeated as a professional mixed martial artist. She also earned two stripes on her Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue belt.

Murphy (Jeff Vulgamore/The MMA Corner)

Murphy (Jeff Vulgamore/The MMA Corner)

Closing 2013 with a bang, Murphy was eager to defend her title in the new year. However, Invicta Fighting Championships went on hiatus. As Invicta President Shannon Knapp reassured fans the promotion would return with exciting changes, everyone sat idly waiting for an announcement. True to her word, Knapp gave fans of women’s MMA the best news imaginable: Invicta had reached an agreement to bring its future events to UFC Fight Pass.

There was something more in store for the champion, though. Murphy and Knapp discussed when Murphy would fight for Invicta again.

“[Knapp] said she was looking forward to helping me make my dreams come true,” Murphy told The MMA Corner. “Next I heard, I was in the UFC.”

On Aug. 16, Murphy is set to face Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann. McMann’s last fight was a failed title bid against Ronda Rousey. Rousey needed just 66 seconds to score a TKO finish of the wrestler. Now, Murphy gets her chance to prove herself against the former title challenger.

“I am ranked in the top 10 and willing to fight. I am injury free and wanted a fight in the top five to test myself. Now I have it,” Murphy said. “When Sara needed an opponent, I was the only one willing and available that made sense.”

Murphy credits Rousey for expediting her path to the UFC. Rousey, the reigning champion, has marched through McMann and three other opponents, including arch-nemesis Miesha Tate, since she was crowned the champion of the UFC women’s bantamweight division.

“Ronda Rousey has walked through her recent opponents, leaving the bantamweight division thin at the moment in the UFC,” Murphy explained.

So, how does Murphy, the Invicta champion, feel she compares to Rousey, the UFC champ?

“I honestly think Ronda is an amazing athlete,” Murphy admitted. “She’s one of the best female fighters that has ever lived. I hope to work my way up and face her some day, because it would be an honor and an amazing experience, but at this time I am focused on the fight in front of me. I actually feel that same way about this fight with Sara. It’s an honor, and [it’s] going to be an amazing experience. There are some other females that have earned their shot with Ronda before me, but I do feel really flattered that some would think I could pose a threat to her.”

The list of potential challengers for the title does indeed seem to be growing thin, but Murphy believes there are still notable threats to Rousey.

“I think Jessica Eye is really turning heads right now, and she has a great chance some day in the not too far future,” Murphy said. “Cat Zingano should be an interesting match-up, and I am looking forward to the fight between her and Amanda Nunes. Holly Holm has the power to knock Ronda out, but I am not sure she can stop Ronda from clinching. A lot of women have knockout power, but they don’t get the chance to use it because she clinches and throws them to the ground and it’s over before they know what’s happening.”

Right now, Murphy is looking forward to her UFC debut. She’s excited for this fight, and she welcomes a step up in competition. She also embraces the challenge and playing the role of the underdog.

Murphy (Jeff Vulgamore/The MMA Corner)

Murphy (Jeff Vulgamore/The MMA Corner)

“The last time I was this excited for a fight was when I was slated to fight Kaitlin Young,” admitted Murphy. “It’s the same feeling. It’s a huge step up in competition, there’s a lot of people doubting me, and I am making my promotional debut again. I am very, very excited and extremely happy. I am very grateful the UFC gave me a tough match-up from the start.”

McMann challenged Rousey in February and suffered her first career loss. Murphy also enters the UFC with an unblemished record. She stands at 8-0 with wins over Miriam Nakamoto, Sarah D’Alelio and the aforementioned Young.

“I have had to fight some very tough women—the best in the world. I have always fought up—women ranked higher than me, women with many more years of experience, women bigger and stronger than me. That’s how you really find out what you’re made of and what you can do,” said Murphy.

Her toughest challenge lies ahead. Murphy knows that, and that’s why she is focused on training hard.

“My husband tells me often, I have earned the right to have the toughest fight of my life, each and every time. It’s a true statement,” she said. “I have earned that right, and now I have the responsibility to act like it. I’m very blessed to live my dream and fight full-time for the biggest MMA promotion in the world. I can’t disrespect the universe or my future by wasting that and not training hard.”

Sacrifices are a key ingredient in the recipe for success in any sport. If Murphy wanted to succeed, she knew she had to make some changes. To ensure she was best prepared, Murphy, along with her family, moved across the country. She joined forces with The MMA Lab, an Arizona-based gym that has produced top UFC fighters like Benson Henderson and John Moraga.

“I am at a great camp,” Murphy said. “I love The MMA Lab. I have learned a lot from this team, and they are all very ready and willing to work with me in any aspect I need. I get along well with the head coach, John Crouch, and have made some amazing friends. So, I think my game is really improving everywhere.”

While the ever-evolving bantamweight prospect is proud of the trajectory of her career, she doesn’t want to get ahead of herself. She does not feel quite ready to take on Rousey just yet, but if she continues to win her fights, there will be a day when she stares across the Octagon and Rousey is there, staring back at her.

“I think I have to win at least three fights,” Murphy admitted. “I would like a little time to work on my overall MMA game.”

In the meantime, Murphy has another goal in mind.

“It’s a big confidence booster to know in your heart you’ve faced off with some of the toughest women on the planet and beat them. There are many tough fights for me in the bantamweight division of the UFC, and a lot of entertaining match-ups for the fans. That is actually my No. 1 concern, even more than winning the belt, which might sound weird. I want to put on good, entertaining fights for the fans, because that’s what makes them say, ‘Yes, women belong in the UFC!’ That’s more job security than just going out there and winning a shitty lay-and-pray decision. We should keep the standard high and demand great fights, and that’s what I want to deliver.”

About The Author

Stacey Lynn
Staff Writer

Stacey Lynn was introduced to MMA in 2007. She stumbled upon training MMA after falling in love with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai. Stacey graduated with her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology in October of 2012 and balances her work as an MMA writer with being a full time psychologist.