Lauren Murphy has no regrets about her time on The Ultimate Fighter 26. If she was asked to do it again, she’d readily say yes, even if by doing so she’d agree to let producers define the reality seen by the rest of the world.
Murphy, 36, made a stir on the show – conceived to crown a champion in the new UFC women’s flyweight division – when she chose late in the season to train with a team led by Justin Gaethje, distancing herself from the squad led by Eddie Alvarez. She had repeatedly clashed with the ex-champ, who infamously called her by the wrong name during a heated confrontation that followed her decision.
If she saw Alvarez today, she said, “maybe I would speak to him just to tell him, ‘F*ck you.’
The on-camera interactions only skimmed the surface of what really happened, Murphy said Monday on The A-Side. Worse, she said her portrayal undercut any potential explanation she might have had after the show aired.
.@LaurenMurphyMMA had a few choice words for former #UFC champion and The Ultimate Fighter coach Eddie Alvarez:— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) May 5, 2020
"He was really unkind to a lot of the women… He did some really hurtful things that never made on air."
Watch full episode of #TheASide: https://t.co/9yp9flioaY pic.twitter.com/Z285U5Yxbg
“He was really, really unkind to a lot of the women on that show, not just me, but a lot of the women,” Murphy added. “I just happened to be the only one that would speak up or say anything about it, so it was that part that made it on air.”
The problems started in the gym, according to Murphy. She expected Alvarez to be a great coach, and he was anything but.
“He talked a lot of sh*t about the women, even the ones on his own team to the other women on his own team,” she said. “When one woman would lose a fight, as soon as they walked out of the locker room, he would talk to the rest of the team about how they were quitters, they didn’t belong, they weren’t good enough to be there, they shouldn’t be there.
“I lost a fight, and the next day, he was like, ‘She’s not cut out for this sport.’ And he was telling my teammates that about me, and that’s not just me. He did that to all the women.”
Murphy describes an episode where contestant Ariel Beck had a panic attack on set, requiring intervention by Alvarez. Although Alvarez did his part by giving the fighter a sympathetic ear, Murphy said the help belied the UFC lightweight’s earlier behavior toward the fighters, and viewers lacked context for Beck’s reaction because it wasn’t shown to viewers.
“He had a list of all the women in the house, and he circled with a red marker, he put a circle around the girls he thought he could win the show, and he put a big red X through the faces of the women he thought didn’t have a chance, and Ariel was one of those women,” Murphy said. “He put a big red X through her face. And he left that list sitting out for all of us to see. So she knew the whole season what he thought about her. Of course she didn’t want to go to practice with a guy like that that thought that of her, that thought she had no chance and wasn’t a good fighter.”
That judgement permeated Alvarez’s entire approach to his job during the six weeks on the reality TV set.
“He treated us like we were all a bunch of jokes, like we were just stupid little girls with our stupid little game for our stupid little competition,” Murphy said. “He would be really degrading toward us.”
Alvarez did not immediately respond to a request for comment by MMA Fighting. But in a previous interview conducted after the show, he accused Murphy of “conspiring” against her teammates by, among other things, pointing out Sijara Eubanks’ weight troubles and asking him for tips on beating Barb Honchak.
“You didn’t even get past your first fight against Team Gaethje and you conspired two or three times already against the girls on our team that you’re gonna be in the gym with every day,” he said. “So I’m like, man this girl is a little bit of a head case and she’s kind of looking at everyone as her enemy. It just didn’t make for a good attitude in the room or a good person to even have around. She was conspiring from the very beginning.”
In a response, Murphy said the intentions were not mean-spirited and called out Alvarez an interpreting her actions negatively.
“Eddie just assumed I was being an assh*le, because he’s an assh*le, and that’s the way he thinks,” she said.
Even away from the gym, Murphy said Alvarez’s behavior was inappropriate to the cast members.
“He came to the house one night ... sixteen women living in a mansion,” she said. “And he came to the house with a friend of his that wasn’t even a coach on the show – just a random guy that none of us met. He got drunk with his friend in our house, watched fights that we weren’t allowed to watch, and then left and never interacted with any of us. It was super disrespectful and bizarre.
“None of that stuff makes it on air. But those were the kinds of things that were really upsetting to me. I just felt so disrespected.”
If there was any positive to the experience, Murphy said it was the chance to train with Gaethje and coach Trevor Wittman, who helped the current interim lightweight title challenger on set. She added the relationships she forged on the show have survived since the show’s filming in 2017.
When she decided to leave Alvarez’s team, Murphy tried to do the right thing by giving Alvarez a card thanking him for his help. He refused to take it.
Murphy said she felt a lot of pressure to perform well on the show given that she and Roxanne Modaferri already had UFC contracts prior to joining. In the end, she did not perform to the best of her abilities under the spotlight.
But she believes her original coach didn’t help matters.
“That competition was for the UFC belt,” she said. “That’s literally my dream, and it’s Eddie’s dream, too, which makes it even worse, because you would think that a guy like that, that aspires to be the champion and had been the UFC champion, would understand how badly we wanted to win that competition. That competition really meant a lot to me. I felt like I was under a lot of pressure.
“I think Eddie knew that, and I think he knows what that feeling is like, and he’s talked about it a lot. And instead of helping people in his same position. Instead, he chose to humiliate them. And to me, that just seemed so wrong.”