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Ph.D. candidate Miranda Maverick juggling studies with promising UFC career

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LAS VEGAS — It seems a long time when you’re in the midst of it, as Miranda Maverick is now, but a career as a professional athlete is actually just a small sliver of life.

Maverick is one of the many promising prospects the UFC signed in 2020 and has hopes for developing into a star.

Maverick, though, is different than most. Though she loves to fight, and was first encouraged to do it by her father, Cordell, fighting is not in her long-term future. And, depending upon how you look at it, it won’t even be her short-term future.

By the time she’s 30, she wants to be making her mark in the world doing something other than fighting. She’s 24 and probably doesn’t plan to fight past 30. At that point, she'll use the degrees in psychology and sociology she’s already earned, as well as the PhD she’s working on in industrial/organization psychology.

So she has a lot to cram into the next six years or so, and knows that her loved ones understand when she doesn’t have time for them at the moment.

“I’m big about prioritizing schedule,” said Maverick, who fights fellow top prospect Maycee Barber on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN+) in a flyweight bout at Apex on the main card of UFC Vegas 32. “I still get stressed. There is a lot of mental stress that comes along with the training, the fighting, my job, school, all of that together. I’ve had to learn to prioritize. To me right now, fighting in camp, that’s the No. 1 priority, then school, then work and my social life comes last.”

She chuckled a bit. It seems daunting just talking about it, let alone living it. There are so many competing interests that scheduling becomes a job in and of itself.

But she said she has a good support system and said she’s fortunate that everyone important in her life is all in on her journey.

“The people who really care about me want me to accomplish my goals and they know what it takes,” she said. “My school will be over in the fall, and then I’ll have less to worry about, so I’ll be able to put more of my focus on fighting. And I’m really excited about what I can do [as a fighter] when I have that time to focus more on training, nutrition, all of those kinds of things that lead to success in this business.”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 27: Miranda Maverick reacts after her victory over Gillian Robertson in their lightweight fight during the UFC 260 event at UFC APEX on March 27, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Miranda Maverick reacts after her victory over Gillian Robertson in their lightweight fight during UFC 260 at Apex on March 27, 2021 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Barber is coming off back-to-back losses which, in some eyes, has taken some of the luster off of her status. But she severely injured her knee in the opening moments of the first of those two losses, to Roxanne Modafferi last year.

She returned and was outboxed by Alexa Grasso, but Maverick hasn’t lost any respect for the woman whose nickname is “The Future.”

“Let’s be honest: She still is the future in this sport,” Maverick said of Barber. “Most of the women in the 125-pound division essentially started at the age she’s at right now. She still has so many years before she reaches her peak. She’ll probably still be in the division fighting at a high-level when half of these girls are gone and retired. So in my mind, she’s still the future regardless of what happens in this fight.”

Maverick, though, is confident in her own future. She’s 2-0 in the UFC and 9-2 overall. She’s coming off an impressive victory over Gillian Robertson in March at UFC 260, though it wasn’t up to Maverick’s high standards. At BetMGM, Maverick is a -135 favorite to defeat Barber.

She knows she’ll have to be better, particularly since she believes Barber will be intent on making a statement after having lost two in a row.

“I’m my own worst critic,” Maverick said. “I think that fight was OK, but it was not as good as it could have been. The first and third rounds against Gillian, I feel went fairly well, though I could have caught a couple of finishes. I didn’t capitalize on some opportunities that were there. But in Round 2, I got controlled more than I’d hoped on the ground. There were some vital mistakes that I had made. There were things I could have done better and I hope that if I’m in those situations again, I’ll be able to take advantage.

“I’m still pretty young in this sport and I’ve got a lot ahead of me. The key is to keep learning and getting better and I do feel I’ll be better [Saturday] than the last version of me you saw.”

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