Like most Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view, UFC 263 is a deep card from top to bottom. Hidden on Saturday nights preliminary portion of the event is a pivotal matchup in the flyweight division between third-ranked Lauren Murphy and sixth-ranked Joanne Calderwood. It is a booking that could very well decide the next challenger to champion Valentina Shevchenko. And Murphy is taking a hopeful, yet cautious approach in thinking about what a win in Glendale, Arizona could mean for her.
The championship implications of Lauren Murphy vs Joanne Calderwood
“I would love to say it’s a No. 1 contender fight,” Murphy told reporters Wednesday at the UFC 263 media day. “I would like to say that, but I also know in this sport anything could happen. I could win this fight but come out with such an injury that maybe I’m sitting on the shelf for nine months, or maybe I win this fight, and Valentina gets injured. That’s what happened to [Calderwood]. She was lined up for the title and the champion got injured. It was totally outside her control.”
“Lucky” has seen her fair share of highs and lows during her seven-year stint in the promotion. She has also seen how volatile the booking of any UFC title fight can be. A win inside the Gila River Arena would be her fifth straight inside the Octagon. Her longest streak in the promotion by far, and the second-longest run of consecutive Ws in her career.
In front of her in the rankings are two former title challengers in Jessica Andrade and Katlyn Chookagian. Both were soundly defeated in their opportunities at relinquishing Shevchenko of her title, so there is no demand to see either in a rematch any time soon. Meaning Murphy has a very strong case to make for a title opportunity if she is victorious at UFC 263. Yet, because of what she has seen during her career, the 37-year-old is not at all ready to make any assumptions as to how her bosses will make decisions for the future.
“It is hard for me to say, ‘Oh yes this is going to happen, and when I do this, and this is next’ – I learned years ago you can’t do that in MMA,” she said.
History has also taught the native of Alaska that wins sometimes aren’t enough. To earn special opportunities in the Octagon, fighters need to force decision-makers hands by putting forth an undeniable show of skill, technique and also entertain the fans in attendance.
“I think it all depends on what happens Saturday night,” Murphy said. “It depends on my performance. If ‘Jojo’ and I have a fight where we just go out and look at each other, then no [title shot].”