ABU DHABI – Lauren Murphy was supposed to fight a top contender at UFC 254 but will take on a promotional newcomer instead.
After Cynthia Calvillo withdrew from their fight, the UFC signed promotional debutant Liliya Shakirova as a replacement. Despite the high-risk, low-reward nature of the matchup, Murphy (13-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC) didn’t think twice about accepting.
“It’s a huge risk,” Murphy told reporters, including MMA Junkie, at a pre-fight news conference Tuesday. “I’m at the top right now. This fight with Cynthia was a big fight. It was going to maybe mean a lot of things. To step in and fight somebody that’s brand new that we know nothing about, yeah, it’s a huge risk. But it was a risk I was willing to take to come out and have the ‘Fight Island’ experience and hopefully cement my place in the division. So it never occurred to me, ‘Let’s not do this.’ I told Mick, ‘Put me on the plane. I’ll fight whoever.’ It’s going to work out, for sure.”
Despite losing her highly ranked opponent, Murphy thinks there could still be opportunities to be earned with a win over Shakirova (8-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC). A victory would signal four in a row for Murphy.
“We just have to see how the fight goes. It really depends on how the fight goes, really,” Murphy said. “I think that’s kind of the case with any fight. You’ve got to see what happens in the first one before you move on to the next one. There’s a lot happening in the division right now. It’s a pretty exciting time to be in 125.
“… As long as I give an impressive performance, then I’m in a good spot. You know what I mean? Really, from this point, it’s just about giving the best performance that I can. Maybe Cynthia and I will see each other down the road. Who knows?”
UFC 254 takes place Saturday at Flash Forum on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. The main card streams on pay-per-view after prelims on ESPN 2/ESPN+.