Lauren Murphy’s fighting nickname is “Lucky,” but leading up to UFC 266, it seemed like she was living by Murphy’s Law.
Anything that could go wrong did go wrong in the days and weeks leading into her first opportunity to become UFC champ when she was scheduled to face Valentina Shevchenko this past September.
“It took a long time to process but so much went wrong in that camp to fight Valentina, it’s almost unbelievable,” Murphy revealed on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “I’ve actually never seen anything like it. The amount of s*** that went wrong before that fight was just f****** amazing.
“By the time I got into the octagon, I was already broke. I was broke before I even got in there, and I had to look at why that was. There were a lot of reasons for that, like, good, legit reasons, but to be honest with you, I should not have been in the octagon that night. I just should not have been in the octagon that night.”
It turns out Murphy was actually quite sick during her training camp. She didn’t learn about the real severity of her illness until after the fight.
“About four weeks before I fought Valentina, I contracted a bacterial infection in my intestine,” Murphy revealed on Wednesday. “The bacteria’s called clostridioides difficile, but the infection is called C-diff. I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t have any experience with it, but if you have a nurse or a doctor or anybody who works in a hospital setting, you can ask them about C-diff and they will know what it is.
“But I didn’t know what it was, so I relied on my team to really walk me through that process. I mean, this is a team that I had for years. These are guys that had advised me in all matters pertaining to my health for the past five fights. Unfortunately, I was not advised correctly on what C-diff was, or how to treat it. I was told you could just take some probiotics, that would fix it; [they said], ‘You don’t need to take antibiotics until after the fight, you’ll be fine, let’s do this.’ Of course, I was like, ‘OK, yeah, let’s do this. Let’s fight, I don’t want to miss my chance.’ That is not the right advice.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, C-diff is a germ that causes inflammation of the colon and the severity of the disease, particularly in people 65 and older can actually lead to death. The germ is considered highly contagious, which is another reason Murphy was so irate she didn’t know more about the illness until after the fight.
“Not only did it put me at risk, but it put Valentina at risk,” Murphy said. “It put athletes that shared the hotel with us that week at risk. It put the other athletes at the P.I. that week at risk, and that’s absolutely not OK.
“If I had known that, I would not have come. It’s one thing to say, ‘OK, I’ll get through this and I’ll put my health at risk to fight.’ It is something else to put other people’s health at risk and that’s absolutely not OK.”
Looking back now, Murphy recognizes the danger she faced by competing.
“I should have withdrawn from that fight,” she said. “I should not have been in the octagon that night. I should not have been in the hotel that week. I should not have been in the [Performance Institute] with other athletes that week. I wish 100 percent I had withdrawn from that fight.”
Beyond Murphy’s own health issues, her team also took a hit on fight week after her head coach tested positive for COVID-19 and he was forced to return home. That forced her husband to shift in the role as her head coach for the night, which led to him receiving a mountain of criticism for the advice he was offering Murphy between rounds.
“I know Joe [Murphy] got heavily criticized for his cornering, but Joe, he was supposed to be in the corner, but he wasn’t really supposed to coach like that, that night,” Murphy said. “I think I was just already broken before I even got in there, and there’s a lot that went wrong.”
Between her health and the absence of her coach, Murphy knows the smart move would have been to pull out of the fight. But she was still determined to make the best out of an awful situation.
“I’m the kind of person even if the odds are a trillion to one, I’m going to f****** take those odds,” Murphy said. “Who knows, maybe, and that’s what I kind of kept telling myself. But I had to be honest, I was already broke before I even walked in the octagon that night.”
Despite everything that happened, Murphy still can’t deny what that moment meant to her just for the sheer magnitude of stepping into a UFC title fight.
“In a lot of ways, it was the worst experience of my life,” Murphy explained. “My dream was to go in and fight the best, and give her a good fight, and here I had earned the opportunity to go in and fight the best and I was not able to give her the fight I was capable of, and that’s a living nightmare. I never wanted it to be like that in front of my family and friends. I didn’t want to get finished for the first time in my career. I didn’t want any of that to happen.
“So in those ways, it was a terrible experience. But also, I got to share the cage with Valentina f****** Shevchenko, and it was amazing. It was an incredible experience. I’ve never experienced that in any other fight that I’ve ever had, and I’ve fought everybody in the top-10, and she’s different. She’s different than all of them, and I’m so proud that a high school dropout and single mom and former drug addict from a small town in an isolated part of the country worked my way up to fighting somebody of that level on that stage. It was the coolest f****** thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Murphy also acknowledges the reality of the title fight opportunity, and there were no guarantees it would come after UFC 266. She’s personally witnessed other fighters pull out of a title bout only to lose the chance through one circumstance or another, and she never wanted to live with that regret.
“To be fair, nobody forced me to fight that night,” she said. “Nobody forced me to get in there. I made that choice. I chose to fight that night because I wanted to fight the champion. I wanted to fight Valentina Shevchenko. I wanted to know what that felt like. I wanted to know what it was like to compete for the f****** title against the best in the world.
“Jojo [Joanne] Calderwood, she was lined up to fight for the title, and then the champion got hurt, and then Jojo could never make her way back. She’s never going to fight for the title now, and every time I see Jojo, she looks like she just got done sucking on a lemon. She’s just bitter. I didn’t want to end up like that. I wanted to at least shoot my shot, no matter how s***** it was going to go, and I wanted to share the octagon with one of the greatest fighters that’s ever lived. Even if I had one arm and I was bleeding out of a profuse neck wound, I still wanted to share the cage with the champion.”
Even with the result that night ,and the time it took to get past the fight, Murphy believes without a doubt she can get back there again. At UFC Long Island, she has a golden opportunity in front of her with a showdown against Miesha Tate, who’s making a big splash at 125 pounds after previously reigning as bantamweight champion.
If all goes well on Saturday, Murphy will be right back in the thick of the hunt for another chance to face Shevchenko, and nobody is going to tell her she can’t do it.
“When I beat Miesha, I could be right back there in a No. 1 contender’s fight against somebody really tough,” Murphy said. I’m going to have to work really hard for it and then when I beat that person, again, I’m going to prove I’m willing to fight and claw and scrape my way back to the top. I don’t feel discouraged, and I don’t feel defeated. I know that Valentina beat me, but I still want to be the champion. It’s going to take more than one little ass-kicking to keep me away from the championship.
“I’m tough, I’m going to get back up, I’m going to come back better and I’m going to earn my way back there. I don’t care if everybody in the world f****** doubts me.”