LAS VEGAS — When the cage door closed on the Octagon in the past, Canada’s Randa Markos found she wasn’t fighting for herself.
And that became the problem.
“People are always so quick to tear you apart,” said Markos to The Toronto Observer, at UFC 239 media day. “I’ve been on a win-loss streak forever and everyone’s expecting me to lose.
“That gets to you, I felt like I was fighting for everyone else and not myself.”
This Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena, here in Vegas, the 14th-ranked Strawweight faces off against the fifth-ranked and title contending Claudia Gadelha on the prelims portion of the card.
It will be her 12th appearance under the UFC banner, one that can be seen live on TSN in Canada.
Markos (9-6-1) made her octagon debut in 2014 following a stint on the 20th season of The Ultimate Fighter reality series — the first to feature an all-female cast. She was crowned the first UFC Strawweight (115 pounds) women’s champion.
The 33-year-old’s last bout was back in March and arguably the best performance of her career as she defeated Angela Hill via first-round arm bar submission.
That win back at UFC Fight Night: Nashville was Markos’s fourth arm bar submission victory of her career and moved the record inside the octagon to 5-5-1. It’s a result Markos credits to a change made in her life outside.
“The only thing I did differently leading into my last fight was my mental game,” said the Windsor, Ont. native. “Coming into the fight I was frustrated. I started the sport loving it, then hating and now loving it again.
“You can see the old me, who used to finish fights with an arm bar in the first round.”
When asked why the disdain for the sport at one time, Markos cited the lack of preparation with the newfound spotlight she had been receiving.
“Definitely the criticism, nobody ever prepares you for being in the public eye all the time,” she said. “When I first started, I couldn’t pay people to come watch, now it’s completely different.
“For years I felt like I wasn’t prepared in trying to deal with all the pressure and it’s definitely one of the biggest things I had to overcome.”
With her fresh outlook on fighting, Markos sees similarities to the fighting style of this weekend’s opponent, Gadelha. There may an edge, there, however.
“I think we’re similar, both aggressive, and we both come with forward pressure,” said Markos. “I think she’s trying to take the fight to the ground. I have good takedown defence and better striking so I think it’s a good matchup.
“I’ve visualized the fight many times and it’s with my hands raised.”