TUF 26 Finale: The Irony Of It All

So! Moving right along.

The Ultimate Fighter finally ended. I don’t know the last time I felt so relieved for something to be over. Now the only thing left was the finale. I just wanted to have good performance and put TUF behind me.

Putting TUF behind me like what

For the finale, we were offered a fight with an undefeated Brazilian striker named Priscila Cacheoira. It was a fight I was excited for. I was the only contestant from TUF not fighting another TUF contestant, but I was okay with that. It seemed fitting, honestly.

About two weeks before fight day, the UFC contacted me and said Priscila was having visa issues. Replacements in the US were few and far between because the flyweight division is so new- On top of that, it would be extremely difficult for any other international fighters to get visas on such short notice. To make matters even more complicated, Joe and I had scheduled a vacation for after the fight. We were leaving for Thailand two weeks after the finale, so waiting longer than that would mean pushing the fight back to February or later.
We decided to wait and hope Priscila’s visa would go through.

On Sunday, the day before fight week began, I spoke with the UFC match maker for my division. Priscila’s visa still wasn’t ready. We decided that I would not compete on the finale, but instead would keep waiting and hopefully compete the next weekend, in Fresno. If there was still no luck for Fresno, we would just have to reschedule the fight a few months later.
It was the biggest bummer. If I didn’t get to fight, I wouldn’t get paid. I had paid for mitt holders and wrestling privates for my camp already, as well as hotel rooms, and arranged travel. It’s a huge blow to the pocket book to have a fight fall through right before fight week, not to mention the kick in the balls it is to train for a fight, cut weight, and put everything into a camp only to have it fall apart at the last second.

Joe and I went out to sushi that Sunday. I splurged a little on the calories, feeling sorry for myself and figuring I didn’t have to make weight for at least a week.

The next day, Monday, I went to regular morning and afternoon practice at the lab. I was pretty bummed about not being at fight week, not having a fight for sure, and about the whole TUF experience in general. I sat with my coach (John Crouch) in his office that day and talked (read: cried) to him about how frustrated I was. TUF was supposed to be this amazing experience, the UFC is supposed to be an amazing experience, the greatest part of your career; but I was miserable. I told him I wasn’t thrilled about fighting anymore, because it seemed like it just wasn’t working out for me. I had only ever fought UFC title contenders or undefeated prospects, and even though those fights were close, close didn’t count. TUF had been a disaster. It would be my 5th fight with the UFC, after only fighting monsters, but my contract would be brand new, like someone just signed. I couldn’t seem to catch a break. I told him I was just tired and over it and about ready to move on.
He shook his head. “I think you have a bunch of fights left in you. Don’t quit yet, just when it’s all about to come together,” he said. “You’re doing the right things, just keep doing them”. He gave me a hug and I felt a little better.
That night, I got a call from the UFC matchmaker.
“Can you still make weight?” He asked. “A bunch of women weighed in really heavy when they got here and we want you to be an alternate.”
(When you arrive at fight week, the UFC weighs you. This way they have an idea if anyone is in danger of missing. The commissions also use these numbers to advise athletes who come in too far over their weight class about weight cutting and diet in the future).

I started jumping up and down and hitting Crouch in the arm while I yelled at Mick.

I’m a huge dork sometimes. Most of the time. Okay, All the time.

Mick mentioned a few names of who came in heavy, but I already had a pretty good idea. I had lived with those women for six weeks, I knew who would be showing up 20+ pounds over their limit.

Being an alternate for fight week was the best case scenario for me. I would still show up to fight week (a day late), make weight on Thursday, and for sure get my show money. If someone did fall off the card, I would get their fight and have the opportunity to get paid even more.
I packed my stuff and flew to Vegas early the next morning.
While packing, I gave a lot of thought to the situation. I really wanted to stay calm and be as collected as possible during this time. I remembered on TUF, when we were filming, and Sijara was in danger of missing weight. I had gotten SO jacked up and excited, I didn’t think well and it caused a bunch of drama and stress. I really, really wanted to do it all better this time. Joe and I decided this was the perfect opportunity to practice having a better (calmer) attitude, and to practice taking the situation as it came. It was such a hard lesson to have learned on national TV, but this would be a good opportunity to practice doing things better.

We had to start my weight cut immediately. Not only had we lost a day, but I’d also gone a little nuts at the sushi place a few days before, driving my weight up. I had more weight to cut than normal, and I was nervous about it. Again, what a great time to practice having a good attitude.

On Wednesday I started my actual water cut, which meant I was going to need to do a lot of sweating. I went to the UFC Performance Institute to use the sauna there. Most of the athletes on the card were using either the hot tub or the sauna at the PI. Including Sijara.

You better believe, I went in that sauna and parked my happy ass right next to her.

I couldn’t believe the irony. Here we were again, me cutting weight in case she missed. Only this time, the UFC was paying me to do it. Of course they were, it’s the PROFESSIONAL thing to do. If you won’t, or can’t, do your job in this organization, someone else will. Welcome to the UFC.
She couldn’t tell me to get out this time either. I had been instructed to make weight, and I was going to. There was no bullshit about it being “her” gym time or playing up me being a “snake”. Sijara was in danger of missing weight, and if she did miss, someone could take her spot. Just like on the show.
I was pretty happy, and felt vindicated, that she had to eat her words about it all. I also felt a little sorry for her. She looked miserable.

Shana Dobson took this video when we were in the sauna cutting weight for the finale. The irony of it all wasn’t lost on any of us.

At one point, Joe and I were in the hot tub, and Sijara was behind us, taking a break from the sauna. I turned around, and she was literally crawling back in on her hands and knees. I turned back to Joe. “What if she misses weight? Could we take her spot? Maybe we’ll get a rematch with Nicco? Someone else might miss too. What do you think they would do then? Oh my god this is so crazy, it’s just like the show!” I was so glad Joe was there, because he said, “Stop worrying about all that, you can’t control any of it. Just worry about your weight cut, make weight, and let the universe figure out the rest.”
It was a great reminder. I just focused on my own weight cut, which ended up going really well.

The morning of weigh ins, we found out that not only was Sijara going to miss weight, but that she had actually gone to the hospital. Someone said she was in kidney failure, but I don’t know if that is true. She was posting on Facebook later that morning, and was at Bruxie (the Waffle House) the next day, so if she was in kidney failure, she recovered damn quick.

So we were definitely on the card now, but it was up in the air who we would fight. We had gone from having an opponent and a date to fight, to an opponent but no date, to a date but no sure opponent. I was SO hoping to just take Sijara’s spot and fight Nicco. We all were. Most of the girls cut to 125 instead of the allowed 126, just in case they got picked for the title shot. Roxanne ended up getting the fight, since she was a semi finalist and hadn’t lost to Nicco in the house. That meant I would be fighting Barb Honchak.

If you’ve kept up with any of my other blogs, you might remember me talking about Barb. I think she’s tough, and good everywhere, and basically a hard matchup for anyone. I was REALLY nervous about it, but again, this was the perfect opportunity to practice having a good attitude, staying calm, and only worrying about what I could control. I just had to stay positive, keep my mind focused on the things I was good at, and do my best.

It all worked out 🙂 It was a great fight. I felt the best I ever have in the Octagon. I felt very calm, and I had never felt like that in there before. I was so happy to just be there. I felt grateful again, ready to have some fun, a feeling I hadn’t felt in a really long time about fighting. I really believe that keeping my mind right by focusing on what we could control, practicing gratitude, and staying relaxed, allowed me to have the best performance I’ve ever had. We ended up winning a split decision, although when the fight was over I was confident that I had won rounds 1 and 3. I was so excited to hear them call my name, I basically lost my mind, but I don’t care.

LAS VEGAS, NV – DECEMBER 01: Lauren Murphy celebrates her decision victory over Barb Honchak in their women’s flyweight bout during the TUF Finale event inside Park Theater on December 01, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

I’m a dork, you guys. I always have been. We’re all just going to have to deal with it, me included.
It was an amazing night for me, and the perfect way to close the door on TUF.

So, now what? Well… I’d like to fight for the title at some point. Winning that fight put me up pretty far in the rankings. I think the fight between Barb and Roxy would have been a #1 contender fight, so walking in to that fight and winning should put me somewhere close to that. I don’t mind fighting someone else to get to the title shot, but I would at least like to start talking about it.

But until then, I will be on the beach. We have a stop in Singapore for a few days, and then it’s off to explore Thailand for Joe and I 🙂 I am actually writing this on the plane. We are currently about to fly over Okinawa, and we couldn’t be more excited to cross a bucket list journey off our list.
We stopped in to a Lady Gaga concert on our way to LAX, and I will share that experience with you guys in my next blog (spoiler: it was amazing).