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Lauren Murphy still feeling 'lucky' ahead of UFC 266 showdown vs. Valentina Shevchenko

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UFC's No. 3-ranked flyweight Lauren Murphy looks forward to her matchup versus flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko and tells Kevin Iole she truly believes she can win the belt despite the enormous odds against her.

Video Transcript

KEVIN IOLE: Hey, folks. I am Kevin Iole. Welcome to Yahoo Sports. And it is fight week, and we have a lot of action on store at UFC 266 in Las Vegas. And my guess right now is lucky Lauren Murphy, one of the top flyweights in the world.

And I have to say this Lauren I don't think a lot of people other than yourself and your husband Joe would say you're lucky getting to fight Valentina Shevchenko, but you were going to face the flyweight championship for the belt at UFC 266. What has this been like for you making a run to the top of the UFC and getting a chance to fight one of the all time greats?

LAUREN MURPHY: Oh, it's awesome, man. And it's been gratifying, because I think I've fought tough people in the division, you know. Like Andrea Lee is super tough. Roxanne Modafferi is a legend obviously. Mara Barilla only had 1 loss at the time that I fought her.

And then you know fighting JoJo Calderwood was awesome. It was a cool experience. So yeah it's been cool just taking it one step at a time, one fight at a time, one day at a time and really enjoying the process. Like I love being a fighter. I love the life that I get to live.

And it's been a gratifying experience to spend most of my adult life being a professional athlete, because it's not something I ever really dreamed for myself. You know, 20 years ago or even 15 years ago, I would not have picked this for myself to see this is my life has unfolded and this is where I'm at now, it's pretty incredible.

And I think we are lucky to fight Valentina. You know, it's like no fighter wants to just fight mediocre fighters their entire career. Like all fighters dream about fighting the best.

And there's a million fighters out there that love to be in the position that I'm in right now. They wish they could fight at the highest level in the biggest organization doing what I'm doing. And there's a billion more people out there that wish they could fight period and never get the opportunity for whatever reason. So I'm very lucky to do what I do. And I'm very lucky to do who I'm doing it with.

KEVIN IOLE: You know, I wrote before I mentioned to you just before we started recording this that I wrote a story on you in 2014, ahead of your UFC debut against Sara McMann. And you know you went into that story, which was an amazing story of how you got into MMA and all the stuff that you overcame. And I wonder now as you sit there, and you're right on the verge of the UFC championship and you think about that, how inspirational you could be to literally millions of women out there and millions of people out there, I guess if you win this given what you overca-- forget what you overcame in your MMA career-- what you overcame in your life.

LAUREN MURPHY: Yeah, you know, perseverance counts for so much and it's the more valuable attribute than money. It's a more valuable attribute than talent. Perseverance and toughness can take you further in life than anything else in my opinion. And the beautiful thing about that is that anybody can have that.

Anybody can persevere. Anybody can teach themselves to be tough. And perseverance just counts for so much more than people give it credit for, you know. Because there's a lot of really talented people out there and not just in the athletic world but in life. There's talented people everywhere, talented artists, talented musicians, talented students, talented doctors.

And there's going to be other people in those fields that want to make it so far, and want to get those accolades, and want to be lifted up like that, and they don't have the same amount of talent. But with perseverance, they can make it to the same place. And I hope that that's what people take from this.

KEVIN IOLE: You know, you got into MMA, because you wanted to get your son involved in the martial arts. And I guess your life back in those days, you weren't living the life of an athlete, right? I mean--


KEVIN IOLE: In 2010, did you ever imagine yourself being interviewed around the world and you know, have all this happening?

LAUREN MURPHY: No. You know, in 2010, what was I doing? I was-- I think I had just started training. And women were not even allowed in the UFC. Like the biggest I could really dream of was something like Strikeforce, or maybe Bellator, or something like that. And I'd watch the women in those promotions and just be in awe of them and think like, Oh my God, imagine what that must be like.

And I couldn't really see it like I couldn't really see it for myself, but I dreamed about fighting tough people. I didn't dream about the media or the attention. I didn't dream about like the prestige or even the money. Like I was never in this for the money.

But I did dream about like what would it be like to push myself to the limit. What would it be like to show my whole heart to the world? What would it be like to be in there with the very best, and like how well could I do with them? And so in that sense, I get to live that dream now. But all the other stuff that comes with it, that's all like cherry on the cake of it you know.

KEVIN IOLE: I think it's funny now when you look at it, you kind of went the opposite way of most people, you know, featherweight champion. Then you go to Invicta, you become the bantamweight champion. And now you're looking to win the UFC flyweight championship. So that would lead me to believe that, you know, I know sometimes people when they're in smaller promotions, they fight up and whatnot.

But I have to think that 125-pound weight cut is not easy for you. And you know, talk a little bit about that in terms of going up against somebody like Valentina. You can't afford to have anything not at 100%, right? So how do you prepare for her to make sure that you have an easy weight cut so that you're at your best on Fight Night.

LAUREN MURPHY: Man, well I work with a really good team. But I woke up this morning. And my weight is perfect. It's better than it's been for like my last three fights I think. So we're a little bit ahead of schedule actually for the weight cut this time. So no worries about that.

But I work with a really great nutritionist. His name is Matteo Capodaglio. He's working with Cody Garbrandt right now. He works with Marvin Vettori, Uros Medic. And he's brilliant. So after I fought Sijara, I had a really terrible weight cut when I fought Sijara, and I was just kind of doing it on my own.

And I called a man named Andy Galpin. And I said, hey, I need help. I felt really terrible in my last fight. I don't know what I'm doing. And so he recommended Matteo to me, and Matteo and I started working together.

And the first fight that we did together was when I fought Mario Barela. So we did the weight cut, and I was expecting to feel terrible. And just so the way that Matteo brought my weight down, the way that we cut the weight, and then especially the way that he recharges me after the weight cut, I felt like a different person.

I was bouncing off the walls in the hotel room. I looked like I hadn't cut any weight at all. I had never felt like that before after any weight cut. And when I went into the fight the next night, I felt like I could have fought for hours if I wanted to so. I really love Matteo's methods. He's a genius, and he has really changed my career a lot.

KEVIN IOLE: Well now that you've won five in a row since you joined forces with him, and you're in the Yahoo Sports pound-for-pound list-- you're obviously fighting for the championship-- so some work. But I want to just go back a little bit before we get into Valentina. You start your UFC career 0 and 2. You're 1 in 3 in your first four UFC fights. And if you count the Ultimate Fighter fight in there, it was an exhibition. You're 1 in 4.

That takes a lot of-- you mentioned perseverance before-- but what else did it take to overcome that, because I'm sure as you're sitting there after the loss and the Ultimate Fighter to Nicco Montano, you're sitting there questioning, hey, can I do this at this level? How did you manage to overcome and get it turned around and get on this run where now you're fighting someone like Valentina?

LAUREN MURPHY: I changed camps honestly. You know I was 8 and 0, and I was working here in Houston. I was actually here in Houston when I won the Invicta bantamweight championship. And I was training with my coaches and I really loved the camp that I had. And one of my coaches moved to the East Coast. And I was like I'm not moving to the East Coast.

We just couldn't do it. You know Joe was in the military. We had a lot of stuff going on. And through a series of events, we ended up in Arizona. And Arizona was great. It was great for us. My husband's career really excelled. My son moved in with us, and he had a fantastic high school career.

So a lot of really great things happened for us. And I got to train at the lab, which was an awesome experience. And a lot of things really went right, but I couldn't seem to get a win. I was fighting tough people. And there was a couple key things I think that we're not going well in my career.

And my confidence was very low. I was really really overtrained. Some of the training methods that I was doing to myself, I would get a loss in the sport, and I think I just need to train more I just need to train more and then I would be training all the time. And then I would be exhausted, having bad practices, and then that would translate into my fights.

So like you said, after the Ultimate Fighter, I was just so sad. I was humiliated I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I won one fight against Barb Honchak. I was like, Oh, there's hope, you know. Like Barb's a legend in the sport. Like maybe we could do this. I lost to Sijara after that.

And I was like just so sad. And so that's when I called Andy Galpin. And he started working with me. He said we need to change your strength and conditioning protocol. You know, your training regimen is way too much. You need to rest a lot more.

I was like, OK, you know, and I just figured I'm going to trust these guys. So I started working with Matteo. He had me eating a lot more than I was used to. Like he actually really increased my caloric intake. And I came back to Houston, which I really missed my coach out here. And just through a series of events that seemed like kind of random at the time, I ended up back in Houston.

And I was offered a fight against Mario Barela. And I did my camp in Houston. And to tell you the truth, I was terrified, because I didn't know. I was working with like basically a whole new team at that point, a new nutritionist, a new camp director with Andy Galpin, a new head coach with Alex Cisne.

And I knew Alex, my head coach. I had known him before from my Invicta days, but we hadn't worked together in about five years. So it was a pretty big chance. But then I felt so good in that fight. And then I ended up getting a finish. And I just felt incredible.

And something-- like it was like every cell in my body, Kevin, was like move to Houston. I couldn't even. It was like quit fucking around, you know. My son had graduated high school. My husband's career was in a great spot where we were able to move. And so it just seemed like everything fell into place right at the right time.

And I know I went through a rough patch for a minute in the UFC. But really all that experience, it's like it was really good learning for me. It took a lot of pressure off of me. It just it gave me a lot of good insight and a really good perspective as well. So I think that this win streak that I'm on now would not be as valuable to me unless I had gone through that hard time. And now I know a lot too about what not to do.

KEVIN IOLE: So let's sort of wrap this up by talking a little bit about Valentina. Obviously she's one of the legends of the sport, 21 and 3, two of her three losses were to Amanda Nunes who is considered the GOAT. And obviously, those were really close losses, both of those fights. Do you see any weaknesses in her? Is there the fact that you're going to have to be better, or do you see weaknesses that you can take advantage of?

LAUREN MURPHY: I don't really think about it like that to be honest with you. You know, my coaches have a game plan for me. And my goal is to follow the game plan and fight to the best of my ability. And I don't really think like that Valentina has weaknesses, but I think everybody makes mistakes. And it only takes one mistake in a fight, you know.

And so everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has moments where they hesitate. Everybody has areas that they don't feel as strong in. And it only takes one second in a fight to capitalize on that.

And I believe in myself. I know that I have a lot of strengths as well. And I think if I just keep doing what I've been doing, it's worked out for the last five fights. So I'm not going to change it now. But it's like if I just keep following the game plan that my coaches give me, if I go out there and fight her the way that I've been sparring, and I capitalize on whatever mistakes she makes, I think I'm going to be OK.

I think we can come out with a win here. I really really really believe in my ability to beat her. And so I know that I can beat Valentina. I know that I can. I hope that I do, and I know that I can.

KEVIN IOLE: Two last questions then. So one, do you think that she has that or kind of like Mike Tyson had when he was on top in boxing, you know, guys were beaten before they got in the ring? Do you think that some of her opponents-- I don't want to name any names. If you want to, go ahead-- but you know, do you think the opponents were beaten before they got into the ring with her, because they saw the reputation? They saw what she had done and kind of just you know kind of succumbed before the first bell,

LAUREN MURPHY: Certainly. Yeah 100%. I mean the more a fighter wins, the more confident they get. The more dangerous their aura becomes. The bigger the reputation is and then they can almost walk into a ring and defeat people before the fight is even started. And you know one thing about me is I'm mentally incredibly strong. And I don't I don't focus on things like that.

I'm not fighting her reputation. I'm not fighting her past fights. I'm not fighting her name. I'm fighting a body. And just like every other fight I've had in the last 10 years, I'm going to fight another tough girl when I'm in there that night. And I'm going to stay focused on the moment that I'm in.

And when I'm doing that when I'm just focused on the moment that I'm in, there's no room to think about her past accomplishments, the things that she's done, how great everybody thinks she is. There's just no room to think like that. And so one of the things that I think makes me a good fighter is that I have the ability to focus on the moment at hand and not let those kind of outside external factors creep in there to affect my performance.

KEVIN IOLE: So I'll wrap with this last question. And so you'd just answered this. Maybe you're not going to say. But Dana White's putting the belt around your waist on Saturday night. The crowd is going crazy. What is the first thing you're going to think of? You're going to think to those days in Alaska when you had struggles and life looked like you didn't know what was going to happen? Or what is going to be the first thing that comes into your mind?

LAUREN MURPHY: It's a good question. I guess I'll have to answer it that night. But when I imagine that, you know, what I think about a lot is I think about like how we did it together as a team, how instrumental my husband has been in my career and in my success. I think about my son a lot and just how much we went through as a family for me to be a fighter and how much they've supported me, how brilliant my coaches are.

Yeah, I think that's normally what I think about it. I don't know. I don't think about the crowd that much. I try not to think about like, Oh my God, this is incredible because it's like, that makes it sound almost unbelievable, but it's not unbelievable. I can win the flyweight championship you know.

KEVIN IOLE: We will see you on Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Lauren Murphy versus Valentina Shevchenko for the UFC Flyweight Championship, Lauren, thanks so much. Best of luck to you, my friend. I appreciate you

LAUREN MURPHY: Thanks a lot Kevin. Talk to you soon.

KEVIN IOLE: See you soon. Bye.

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