UFC's Miranda Maverick, a Ph.D. candidate at Old Dominion, eyes title shot after UFC 258

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·5 min read

LAS VEGAS — It’s 72 hours before Miranda Maverick is scheduled to fight Gillian Robertson on Saturday (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+ PPV) at Apex at UFC 258, and like all fighters, she has plenty to keep her busy.

There is a weight cut coming in 24 hours, and there are plenty of media obligations. There are last-minute preparations for the bout with Robertson, an important match, which, if it goes the way she believes it will, would certify her as one of the division’s prospects to watch.

[UFC 258 on ESPN+ PPV: Buy Usman-Burns fight here]

For Maverick, though, there is more, and that’s no surprise. There’s always more.

On this night, she’s grading papers for a class at Old Dominion University where she is a teaching assistant. She’s a student at ODU herself, pursuing a Ph.D. in industrial organizational psychology.

There’s never much time for her to just goof off and enjoy life, as so many 23-year-olds do. There’s constantly something pressing on her plate.

“I just schedule really well,” she said with a chuckle. “I make sure I set my priorities where they need to be. When a fight comes up, I try to get all my schoolwork done early. And when the fight winds down, I tend to focus on school a little more. But I try to make sure I attend the classes all up to the fight.”

She’s 8-2 as an MMA fighter and 1-0 in the UFC. She had impressive wins over Pearl Gonzalez and DeAnna Bennett in Invicta and was dominant in her UFC debut at UFC 254 on Oct. 24 in a TKO of Liana Jojua.

Maverick has done all of this despite calling herself “one of the biggest quitters you’ll ever meet.”

She was a member of the boys wrestling team in high school and got a chance to wrestle a lot when the boy in her weight class was injured. But when he returned after the Christmas break, he beat her in a wrestle-off to earn the spot back.

That was enough to end her wrestling career.

“I actually quit because I was becoming very passionate about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and it was taking three hours out of my day after school to train,” she said. “My dad needed help on the farm at home. I was home-schooling my siblings. I was studying for the ACT. A lot of things were getting in the way, so I actually quit wrestling so I started focusing more on my life and starting college.”

She was invited to wrestle on the men’s team at Drury University when she was an undergraduate, but because by that point she’d turned professional as an MMA fighter, she was prohibited from doing so by NCAA rules.

She’s been training in MMA for just seven years and has already reached the UFC. And though she’s in a division with Valentina Shevchenko, arguably the most dominant champion in the UFC, Miranda hasn’t shirked away from the notion that she could be the one to unseat the legendary champion.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 24:  Miranda Maverick has her hands wrapped backstage during the UFC 254 event on October 24, 2020 on UFC Fight Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Miranda Maverick has her hands wrapped backstage during UFC 254 on Oct. 24, 2020, on UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

She knows it’s going to take time and she still needs to develop more fully as a fighter, but she said when she trains, she does so always as if she’s preparing for Shevchenko.

“I think I’m a little ways away in terms of time, but I don’t think I’m a long ways away in terms of my talent and abilities,” she said of one day challenging for a championship. “I do want to take my time and play it smart. It looks like they’re already going to throw me into the fire. I have all this hype around me and they’re putting me against Gillian, who was fairly highly ranked before her last fight. I would assume after [this fight], I’ll be in the Top 15. I said at my debut that it’d be about two years for me to get my title shot and I still think that’s more than true.

“[Shevchenko] is the person to watch. When I train, it’s not to get ready to fight the girl I’m fighting, it’s to fight Valentina. We always talk about that in the training room. I’m always trying to get that 1 percent better so I can fight the best in the world. She’s proven to be the best right now. I think she has holes and nobody has been good enough to test her grappling.”

She doesn’t come off as arrogant or big-headed as she talks about this. She has a matter-of-fact attitude and she’s seen success and believes it’s a harbinger for the future.

It’s a long way from Liana Jojua and Gillian Robertson to Valentina Shevchenko, but if there is one thing Maverick is good at, it’s studying.

She looks closely at Shevchenko and believes she’s beatable.

“Jennifer Maia obviously did decent against her in a couple of rounds, but still got beaten pretty badly,” she said. “But I feel if me and Jennifer Maia got into a fight, I’d confidently win that fight. It did show some holes in Valentina’s game, but people are just intimidated by her so much when they go in to fight her.

“Her ability to strike and keep her distance and control that distance is very good. But by the time I get to the point where I fight her, I’ll be very confident walking into the cage.”

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