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Lauren Murphy likes Valentina Shevchenko to retain at UFC 261, not rushing towards own title shot

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With the second-longest winning streak in the UFC flyweight division behind only champion Valentina Shevchenko, it’s safe to assume Lauren Murphy is one of the first names the matchmakers will call if they need a title challenger in a pinch.

But that’s not how Murphy wants her championship opportunity to happen.

The 11-year pro has won four straight fights since dropping down to 125 pounds, knocking off contenders Roxanne Modafferi, Andrea Lee, and Mara Romero Borella as she’s made her way through the ranks. This run has emboldened Murphy to be vocal about wanting an eventual title shot, though she also wants to wait until the time is just right.

“Maybe a little bit, I can’t remember now if that was something I really entertained,” Murphy said on What the Heck when asked if she thought about making herself available for Saturday’s UFC 261 title fight between Shevchenko and Jessica Andrade. “I never want to get my shot because somebody else fell out. That’s fine, I’m totally fine with whatever happens in the title picture at this point. We’re going to see what happens with Andrade and Valentina… I’m gonna be watching, I think Andrade has a good chance.

“She has as good a chance as anybody in the division. She’s got some skills. Her strength and explosiveness, her takedowns on the cage, and the way that she can—She’s so explosive, she lifts people and she hurts them when she does it, when she slams people. We’ll see how Valentina deals with that.”

Murphy’s next step towards whoever holds the title after this weekend takes place on June 12 at UFC 263. She has been paired up with fellow veteran Joanne Calderwood, with the winner keeping themselves in the thick of the contenders’ chase.

The last thing that Murphy wants is to be granted a title shot because there’s no better options. Murphy is a former Invicta FC bantamweight champion, has gone through the grind of an Ultimate Fighter season, and competed at both 135 pounds and 125 pounds in the UFC. When her day finally comes for a title, she wants the best version of herself to make the walk to the octagon.

“If I just keep having fun and keep doing what’s put in front of me, then not only will the title be a byproduct of all that, but I also want to be ready for when I have a title shot,” Murphy said. “I don’t want to just be like, ‘Oh, I finally got my chance because somebody else fell out. I got to fight for the title, well I lost, but who cares?’ I want to be like, I’ve earned my spot. I’ve been through all these tests. I’m going to get a title shot and then I’m gonna feel prepared for it because I know that I fought good girls in the division. I beat tough girls in the division and the next logical step is for me to fight for the championship. I don’t want it to be a gimmick if I get a title shot. I don’t want it to be like, ‘They gave it to you because the UFC favors you’ or there was just nobody else.

“I want it to be legit like I earned this and not only am I ready to fight for the championship, but because of the tests that I’ve been through I’m also ready to be the champion. And there’s a big difference. There’s a lot of girls that are happy to just get a title shot, but they don’t really want to be the champion. I think part of that comes from if it gets handed to you without having a lot of tests first, then they don’t feel ready.”

Murphy can’t be sure who will be champion when it’s her turn for a crack at the belt, but she likes Shevchenko’s chances of retaining this weekend. The current flyweight queen goes for her fifth consecutive defense when she takes on Andrade, a former strawweight champion.

Still, Andrade has won fights in three divisions and Murphy cautions that fans should expect the unexpected.

“I’m still picking Valentina to win,” Murphy said. “If Andrade wins, she’ll shock the world for sure, so we’ll see. I thought Katlyn [Chookagian] was gonna beat [Andrade] though. I thought Katlyn was gonna use her footwork, stay off the cage, not get sucked into Andrade’s game, and it was like within the first 30 seconds Andrade had Katlyn on the cage and she was looking for those single legs and those crotch lifts, she was looking for those lifts that she likes so much, and she does pack a lot of power.

“I was surprised when that happened, so nothing says I can’t be surprised again. But I’m picking the champ to stay the champ.”

While Murphy awaits the result of Shevchenko-Andrade and an upcoming bout between Viviane Araujo and Katlyn Chookagian that will also play a major role in shaping the flyweight rankings, she’s doing her best to block out any chatter surrounding her own title chances.

“I would be lying if I told you I’m always in this great mindset,” Murphy said. “Sometimes I’m down in the dumps about stuff or I feel a little negative about things going on around me, but if I can’t control it then I’m not gonna worry about it. I can’t control who the UFC is going to give a title shot to, I can’t control who they’re going to offer me as an opponent. Even with the injuries that I had and stuff it was like, okay this stuff is out of my control, I’m just gonna do what I can do. You just have to focus on what’s right in front of you and do what you can do.

“Running your mouth about all this stuff that you don’t have any control over, it’s okay when fighters do that, I don’t think it’s inherently a bad thing, but if it’s taking away from your mindset, then it is bad thing. For me, I just need to keep practicing staying mentally flexible, having a great attitude, and doing my best. I think as long as I focus on that kind of stuff then I feel a lot happier.”