Windsor

Windsor MMA fighter 'not worried' about UFC future heading into next bout

Randa Markos fights in the UFC's strawweight division. Her next fight is scheduled for March 23 when she faces Angela Hill in Nashville, Tenn.

Randa Markos bounced between wins and losses before her last fight ended in a draw

Randa Markos fights in the UFC's strawweight division. Her next fight is scheduled for March 23, when she faces Angela Hill in Nashville, Tenn. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

When Randa Markos first landed in Windsor, Ont., she was just three years old. Her family had been granted visas to come to Canada after escaping imprisonment during the Iraq-Iran war and taking refuge in Turkey.

Three decades later, Markos finds herself as one of the pioneers of the UFC's strawweight (115-pound) division. After all, she was among the first batch of fighters signed by the promotion when the division was first introduced back in 2014.

Now, the 33-year-old is training for her 14th appearance inside the Octagon. For some fight fans, it may just be another fight on a card — but for Markos, it may just be the most important fight of her career.

So you want to be an ultimate fighter?

Markos said her interest in mixed martial arts peaked when she started wrestling as a St. Joseph's Catholic High School student at the age of 14.

"I really loved the individual sports and wrestling had that," Markos said. "If I lose, I only have myself to blame. And if you win, it all reflects on how hard you work. That's what I loved about it."

But graduating from St. Joseph's in 2004 also meant putting her high school wrestling days in the rear view. To hone in on her love of combat sports, Markos joined a Windsor gym where she fell in love with boxing and Brazillian jiu-jitsu.

"All of a sudden, I'm an MMA fighter."

Randa Markos, of Windsor, Ont., raises her arms after winning her strawweight bout against Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger at UFC Fight Night 89 on June 18, 2016, in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand)

In 2009, Markos won her amateur MMA debut in Rochester Hills, Mich.

Six fights later, Markos found herself as a cast member on the twentieth season of The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC's reality competition show which sees 16 fighters live together in one house — all while fighting each another in a bracket-style tournament.

Typically, The Ultimate Fighter sees fighters who are not employed by the UFC fight for a sole contract with the organization. But for season 20, the UFC signed all 16 female fighters on the show to its roster.

Since a contract was no longer used as that season's top prize, the fighters competed for the inaugural UFC women's strawweight championship. Markos won her preliminary and quarter-final fights, but was eliminated in the semi-finals by current champion Rose Namajunas.

'Take the fight … or I'm fired'

Markos currently holds a record of eight wins, six losses and one draw. That draw was the result of her most recent fight against undefeated Marina Rodriguez on Sept. 22, 2018, in São Paulo, Brazil.

But according to Markos, that's not a fight she jumped at the opportunity to take. She said prior to the bout, she was coming off an MCL injury which had not healed.

Ahead of her next fight, Markos has split her training camp across three different gyms: Windsor Wrestling Club, The Garage Gym in Amherstburg and a third gym in Ann Arbor, Mich. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

"I asked them if I could get some time to recover and they told me I either take the fight in Brazil or I'm fired," said Markos.

"It put me in a bad position and I had bad thoughts going into the fight, lots of pressure and everything. But I came out with a draw, which is really crazy." 

Heading into her next fight, Markos' job as a professional UFC fighter may be on the line. A loss to Angela Hill, her opponent on March 23, would result in Markos having three consecutive fights on her professional MMA record without a win.

A loss would also result in Markos being dropped from the UFC's official rankings. As of March 4, Markos is ranked 15th in the UFC's strawweight division. Her opponent, Angela Hill, is currently unranked.

But regardless of her next result, however, Markos said she doesn't feel her current tenure in the UFC is at risk.

"Coming from a loss and a draw, I'm not worried. I know I'm one of the best in the division," she said, adding she's beaten "a lot of tough opponents" including the first-ever UFC strawweight champion.

A new approach to training

Unable to secure back-to-back wins in her professional MMA career since 2013, Markos knew something needed to change her ahead of her next fight.

That change, she said, has come in the form of a new approach to training — one which is more focused on Muay Thai, a type of boxing which incorporates the use of fists, elbows, knees and shins to strike the opponent.

Coming from a loss and a draw, I'm not worried. I know I'm one of the best in the division.- Randa Markos

"I'm more of a wrestler and a grappler, but I realize that [Muay Thai] is one of my weak points and I need to get better at that," Markos said, adding her success in future fights depends on her ability to "find that little edge."

"It's a huge mental thing on me. It's been growing and growing overtime and I finally decided to talk to a sports psychologist and figure out what's wrong with me mentally."

UFC Fight Night 148 takes place March 23, 2019 and will be headlined by a welterweight clash between former title challenger Stephen Thompson and former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis.

About the Author

Sanjay Maru is a reporter at CBC Windsor. Email him at sanjay.maru@cbc.ca.

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