Lerone Murphy Confident He Can Capture UFC Title: 'I’ve Shown That Level Now'

It was a statement-making performance for Lerone Murphy at UFC Fight Night 241.

The unbeaten Brit battered veteran foe Edson Barboza for the better part of five rounds, earning a lopsided unanimous decision triumph in Saturday’s headliner at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. About the only scare that Murphy had occurred at the end of Round 1, when his Brazilian opponent rocked him with an upkick. Fortunately for Murphy, the blow landed at the horn, and he was able to regain his bearings in the corner.

“To be honest, I didn’t even know what he hit me with,” Murphy said at the post-fight press conference. “I looked up at the screen during the round and he caught me with a good upkick. I think that is what busted my nose, along with a hundred million jabs. But yeah, good fight.”

When all was said and done, Murphy held a 220-to-79 advantage in significant strikes. It was the third largest striking differential for a featherweight fight in UFC history, and his total was the fourth most all-time. “The Iceman” also mixed in wrestling to keep Barboza guessing. About the only thing missing for Murphy was a finish.

“Edson is an experienced fighter,” Murphy said. “You see a lot of times people have rushed in, he hits you with knees, spinning kicks. I have to watch my Ps and Qs on the way in. But I did try to get him out of there. I always fight to finish. I just couldn’t get the finish, but it was a great performance anyway.”

There are benefits to getting a five-round experience, particularly for someone with lofty aspirations such as Murphy.

“Going five rounds with Edson is a big experience for me. Obviously, I’ve not fought nobody at that level. Doing an extra two rounds, as well, was different for me and I’m glad I got to bank them,” he said.

“I spoke to [UFC matchmaker] Sean Shelby in the back, as well. He said that’s the way to get to the top in it: You need to fight five-round fights. So it’s good to get that under my belt.”

By adding a signature victory to his resume, Murphy believes he has shown that he can reach the upper echelon of the UFC’s featherweight division. And, more importantly, he’s still progressing as a fighter.

“I can be champion. I’ve shown that level now,” Murphy said. “I’m only getting better. That’s the scary thing. This whole camp, I was working on just a few little bits. I was kind of, not scared going into the fight, but I didn’t have that perfected yet. I know I’m still growing at a massive rate. I’m going to get better and better. Even just my footwork looked better in that fight. My striking was better.

“I’m improving and my ceiling is still here. I’m still here. I feel like I can improve much better than I am already and I could get that title.”

Ideally, Murphy would like to compete on the UFC 304 card in his hometown of Manchester. However, if he is unable to be cleared in time for July 27, he’ll wait for his next opportunity.

“I’m going to jump in an ice bath every day next week. I’m going to go and rest up. I want to make that card,” he said. “There’s no rush, if not. I’d love to fight on there. But if not, I’ll be there in attendance to watch the guys win, to watch [Leon Edwards] win, and all the rest of the guys. It’s a great card.”

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Jingnan Xiong