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Exlcusive Interview with Randa Markos: The Dark Horse in the Strawweight Division

Vinny Craig

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This Saturday, UFC on Fox returns with a Lightweight title fight between champion Rafael dos Anjos and Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone. The main card, live and free on FOX, will start off with a Women’s Strawweight bout between Randa Markos and Karolina Kowalkiewicz. This is just the second time a Strawweight fight has been on the main card of a FOX show (the other Paige VanZant vs. Felice Herrig as the main card opener of UFC on Fox 15).

Markos came to the spotlight on TUF Season 20 where she was the dark horse of the season. Her victory as a #14 seed over the #3 ranked Tecia Torres was the biggest and most shocking upset of the season. Markos has continued that success into the UFC with a Fight of the Night, Split-Decision loss to Jessica Penne and a decisive win over Aisling Daly.

‘Quiet Storm’ recently packed up her stuff and moved from Windsor to Montreal, seemingly overnight, to train at Tristar gym. I talked to her about her move of camps, leaving her job and old gym behind and her upcoming fight with the UFC newcomer.

 

Vinny Craig: Over the summer you had a sudden change in camps, seemingly overnight. Why the sudden change in camps?

I always wanted to come to Tristar for a while now; it’s been in the back of my mind. I wasn’t getting a fight and seemingly my entire division was getting a fight, I wanted to elevate my game during this time and I made the decision that now was the time do it. The competition is only getting tougher and I want to keep sharp. I didn’t get the fight with Paige that I wanted, it made me mad so I packed up my stuff and went to Montreal.

VC: Sage Northcutt and his father had mentioned how outside life was difficult in Montreal while he was up there. Have you had an issue acclimating to the outside life?

Montreal is very different from what I’m used to. Everyone speaks French and you even try and get some food and it’s all in French. Other than that, I live in the dorms right next to the gym where I sleep, eat, and breathe training. Training is what I’m focused on and I don’t care what’s going on outside of that. We have a ton of people that come and go, a lot of UFC fighters. You get to talk to them and see what they’re like with their training. The dorms are really cool, living with a bunch of fighters and all around awesome athletes.

“Here [at Tristar] it’s just strictly training and it’s different for me to be 100% focused on training for the first time in my career.” – Randa Markos

VC: Was the idea of living in a dorm while training for a fight a new thing to you?

The only time I had done anything like this was on TUF. But that was different because they’re all potential opponents I might fight. Living in the dorms is really cool, I like being away from everything to focus on training. Back home I’d be taking care of things, working my job and spending time with my husband. Here it’s just strictly training and it’s different for me to be 100% focused on training for the first time in my career.

VC: How difficult was it leaving a job, team, husband and your family behind to train?

It was a really tough decision to make. My whole family is in Windsor and I had my job and my whole life there. I’m not getting any younger and you don’t get too many chances to fulfill your dreams. I’m in the UFC and I’m going to do whatever it takes to do to be the best.

Unfortunately staying in Windsor wasn’t me doing everything I could. I need to make sure I’m doing everything I can, and moving to the best gym in the world was my best option. I needed to make the sacrifice for my career.

VC: Was part of the reason you left because you had to work a job, cross the Canadian-American border to Dearborn to train, and then go back every day?

Sort of. It was mainly working wasn’t helping me at all. It was taking my mind off of training for a bit because I would train in the morning and then work for a few hours only to go back to train at night. It was good at the time, but I knew I wasn’t doing everything I could to be the champ. I need to give myself the best team to become the champion I know I am.

Training at Michigan Top Team, I had to cross the border and my coaches all had their families and didn’t have enough time for me. I needed to make this change to make sure I’m fully dedicated to this sport. Now I’m completely surrounded by fighters with a similar mentality and focus as I do. There are so many UFC fighters here and everyone is goal driven, it’s a great atmosphere.

“My improvement against Aisling Daly is all from [Michigan] Top Team.” – Randa Markos

VC: Your previous team is Michigan Top Team in Dearborn, which is run by Daron Cruickshank. How is your relationship with him now?

Still really good! I’m still going to train there when I’m home in between fights. He’s an awesome guy who is very dedicated to his craft. It’s an awesome gym and they helped me a lot. I just needed to make the change and I always wanted to go to Tristar to see if it was a fit for me. My improvement against Aisling Daly is all from Top Team. We (Me and Daron) are still really close and I’ll see him and the whole team when I get back home.

VC: That team has gotten a bad reputation from fans that say they didn’t do anything for you, but I have to refute that.

They helped me a lot for my fight with Aisling, a lot of credit goes to them.

VC: You mentioned before that you wanted a fight with Paige VanZant and it didn’t go through. Were there serious talks between your team and the UFC to make that fight happen?

I didn’t ask the UFC for it, I just put it out on social media. I was waiting for a fight and nothing was happening, so I finally said ‘I’m going to take a shot and see if I get it’. She had a really good fight with Alex Chambers and then they moved her up ahead of me in the rankings, which made me want it even more. That was a big reason why I wanted that fight, if she was going to move me down in the rankings she should, at least, have to fight me for it. When I didn’t get it, it was whatever to me. Everything happens for a reason and it helped me in my decision to come to Tristar.

“I think I can beat anybody in the UFC. I’m here to be the champ!” – Randa Markos

VC: Seeing her against Rose Namajunas, a former opponent of yours and in a fight that you wanted, could you have beaten that Paige VanZant?

I think I can beat anybody in the UFC. I’m here to be the champ! I thought the VanZant fight would be a good fight, especially because of the rankings thing. I wanted her to have to fight me for it instead of just being handed it. I definitely think I can beat her.

VC: What did you think of the fight?

I thought it was an awesome fight. Rose looked really good and was extremely technical.

VC: You’re fighting Karolina Kowalkiewicz, how do you see that fight playing out for you?

You can play it out in your head all you want, but once you get in the cage anything can happen. I know she’s going to try and keep it on her feet, but I’m ready for anything. I’ve been training the ground game just as much as the standup for this fight. I feel confident anywhere and I’m ready for anything. I have a feeling she’s going to try and keep it on the feet and use her great take down defense.  I’m aware of all of her skills; she has two submissions in the past which means we can’t take her ground game lightly.

VC: You mentioned rankings as a motive for wanting a fight with Paige. Kowalkiewicz is pretty unanimously top 5 best Strawweights in the world. Was that a motive for this fight?

I don’t really care about rankings. I wasn’t getting a fight and she was moving ahead of me while I received notice after notice of ‘there’s no fight for you’ or ‘this persons injured’. It was very discouraging while I was training hard and still nothing. The rankings thing was just a reason to ask for a fight because I’m not the type to bad mouth anyone. She was constantly moving up and she’s moving me down after beating opponents I know I can beat. I know rankings don’t matter, especially in our division because of unknowns. Take Karolina, she’s 7-0 and no one has even heard of her, but she is definitely top 5 for sure.

” I will get my turn to fight Tecia again; I just have to be patient.” – Randa Markos

VC: Your season of TUF was based off rankings 1-16. You had the upset of the season as a 14 seed beating the 3 seed Tecia Torres. What’s it like, watching her getting fights and [becoming] closer to a title shot?

It doesn’t bother me. She beat Rose in Invicta and Rose is a very tough opponent. I will get my turn to fight Tecia again; I just have to be patient.

VC: You only fought twice in 2015, what does 2016 bring for you?

It all depends on this fight. If I do well, my future will be better. If not, then I’m doing alright for 2016. I’ll still be working hard, win or lose it’s a lesson for me. Either way, I’m going to get better from this fight. I don’t really know what the future will bring me, but I’m ready to fight whenever and I hope 2016 brings me more fights.

You can follow Randa on twitter: @randamma, Instagram: randamarkos, Snapchat: randamma and her own website: www.randamarkosmma.com

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Announcement

Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the works for UFC 223

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UFC 223 looks to add a variety of intriguing bouts. With Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta reportedly set for the unannounced UFC 223 card, the promotion looks to add a high stakes female flyweight match-up. According to MMANYTT.com, sources confirmed a bout between Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, is in the works for the pay-per-view card.

 

Assuming the match-up does come to be, both women have much to gain from a victory. For Herrig, she currently sits on a four-fight win streak. A streak in which the strawweight contender defeated Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Cortney Casey. The MMA veteran, Herrig, began fighting professionally in 2009. As of late, her issues with the marketing machine that is the UFC have intensified.

After demonstrating her technical prowess over Justine Kish at UFC Fight Night 122: Chiesa vs. Lee, Herrig put her emotions on display. She stated at the post-fight media scrum, “Sometimes, I feel like, I’m not young and beautiful enough for the UFC to want to promote me. And it’s sad because I’ve really worked so hard to be here and it’s hard to see these people who’ve not been through what I’ve been through. Who just got into the UFC at the right time. They’re getting all these opportunities and I see how hard I work to get here and it’s just like, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like, ‘I’m not pretty enough and I’m not getting any younger'”.

A frustrated Felice Herrig then spoke to MMAJunkie.com in December. She claimed, “Aside from (former UFC women’s strawweight champ) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I’m the only strawweight who’s gone on a four-fight winning streak. That’s a fact. At this point, I want to fight someone in the top 10. It doesn’t really make sense for me to keep fighting girls that are ranked below me. That’s the whole point. If I want to keep working my way up. I fight the most dangerous girls outside the top 10”. The #9 ranked women’s flyweight has a point. In her UFC career, she recorded one loss in six appearances. Yet, she has one co-main event booking, while fighters like Michelle Waterson, booked the main event in her second UFC bout. In Waterson’s third bout, she received a co-main event scheduling. Understandably, Felice Herrig is upset with her situation.

Later in her interview, Herrig brought up Kowalkiewicz as a potential next opponent. “For whatever reason, I really want to fight Karolina. I just think that would be an exciting fight… Stylistically, I really like that fight. She’s ranked above (me), and it may be a good gauge for me,” she stated. Right now, it looks like Herrig is close to getting what she wants.

Kowalkiewicz last fought in her native country of Poland on the UFC Fight Pass card, UFC Fight Night 118: Cowboy vs. Till, in October. The Polish star defeated Jody Esquibel, after losing consecutive contests to former UFC female strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejcyk and Claudia Gadelha, respectively.

A win for either makes a good case for the next or an eventual title challenger. Kowalkiewicz holds a victory over current division champion, Rose Namajunas. While a win for Herrig would further establish her impressive win streak and undoubtedly give her the boost in the rankings she deserves.

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Bellator

Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.

“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”

Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.

“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”

Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.

“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”

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Fight Announcements

Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder rescheduled for UFC 223 in April

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MMA fans around the world wept in deep sorrow when Al Iaquinta withdrew from a bout scheduled for UFC 218 against Paul Felder. Weep no more, for Paul Felder faces Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Rumblings behind the match-up, first reported by FloCombat.com, came Sunday night before MMAFighting.com confirmed the bout scheduled for unannounced pay-per-view card, later in the evening.

 

The original bout fell through due to a severe knee injury to Iaquinta. He spoke to BJ Penn Radio about the injury nearly a week before the December 2nd, PPV event in Detriot. The Long Island real estate agent claimed, “I tore my PCL and my MCL maybe three or four months ago… for me to really put in a full training camp and do what I need to do, I would’ve had to just focus on fighting and physical therapy… it was the kind of thing where all roads led to me not kind of taking a risk and fighting on December 2nd”.

Iaquinta went on to say, “I kind of accepted the fight, but I never signed a bout agreement… I was kind of told I had to give them an answer pretty quick. It was a fight I thought I really wanted. I thought it was a good stylistic match-up for me, so I accepted the fight, and then thinking about it over the course of a day, we realized it probably wasn’t a smart decision for my health, for everything”.

An outspoken lightweight, he is not the first of his kind. Al Iaquinta is no stranger to idly waiting on the sideline for the UFC to make a move. Contract disputes and other bad strokes of luck left the Serra-Longo with three octagon appearances since 2015. The feud between Iaquinta and the promotion comes as a surprise when looking at the credentials of the aforementioned fighter. With an octagon record of 8-2, he earned notoriety as one of the best lightweights in the world. During his time in the UFC, he defeated Kevin Lee, Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal, and most recently Diego Sanchez.

His opponent, “The Irish Dragon”, Paul Felder, holds an impressive UFC record of his own. At 7-3, Felder defeated tough competition as well. His record notes wins over Daron Cruickshank, Jason Saggo, Stevie Ray, and Charles Oliveira. Even more impressive than his record, his knockout ratio. At this stage of his career, Felder knockouts 55% of his opponents (10 knockouts in 18 career pro bouts).

Like his opponent Iaquinta, Paul Felder has a separate career outside of fighting. As many should notice, Felder found a role as a color commentator with the promotion he fights for. Following the footsteps in a long line of fighters before him, Felder announced multiple events alongside another new addition to the UFC broadcast team, Brendan Fitzgerald.

PPV card, UFC 223 and its location are not official yet. Despite a lack of an announcement, the event takes place in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Centre, according to multiple reports. Currently, the card features no official bouts. Reports state Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (per Jim Edwards), and Evan Dunham vs. Mairbek Taisumov (per Farah Hannoun) are both in the works for UFC 223.

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