Top flyweight prospect Miranda Maverick is frustrated. She’s frustrated that after spending nearly her entire professional career in the hyper-competitive proving grounds of Invicta FC, racking up seven victories and winning the one-night flyweight Phoenix Series tournament, she’s still not getting the credit she deserves.
On Friday, Feb. 7, in the co-main event of Invicta FC 39, Maverick will square off with UFC veteran and former Invicta title challenger Pearl Gonzalez. The winner of that bout will be set to challenge Vanessa Porto for her Invicta flyweight strap. Still just 22-years-old, a future in the UFC seems all-but-guaranteed for Maverick, and a win over a promotional star and proven talent like Gonzalez would jump-start that move.
Maverick, though, isn’t pleased with the speed at which her career is progressing.
“I think this is the slowest path [to the UFC],” Maverick told The Body Lock. “I fought that tournament. I beat all those girls and I still didn’t get a title shot which I’m frustrated by. Now I’m having to go through Pearl just to prove I’m supposed to be title-worthy. It’s one little step at a time. The last tournament winner went straight to the UFC and I’m having to take at least two more steps to get there.”
Maverick has a point. In May of last year, Brianna Van Buren won the Phoenix Series one-night flyweight tournament and was called directly to the UFC, where she picked up a dominant victory in her promotional debut. In September, Maverick won the flyweight Phoenix Series tournament, finishing UFC veteran DeAnna Bennett in the finals. Now Maverick is asked to fight Gonzalez simply for a shot at the Invicta championship.
“I live with a chip on my shoulder,” said Maverick. “A lot of me doesn’t understand why I’m not already [in the UFC] when other young girls… that’s always been the excuse, because of my age. But Maycee Barber, Paige VanZant, girls like that, they got in very early. And I don’t understand why I’m not. I don’t know if it’s because I’m not mean enough, or if it’s because I don’t share half-nude pictures on Instagram. I don’t know what the deal is. But I’ll take whatever route I need to to get there. With my religious views, I assume God has a purpose for holding me back.”
Maverick is understandably frustrated by a lack of recognition. What can she do to garner the attention of UFC brass looking for the next flyweight star?
“Beat Pearl with a ferocity. Finish her. Make sure there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind because I think they see Pearl on this higher level and I want to show that I’m on this higher level.”
“I haven’t reached my prime at all and nobody recognizes that,” said Maverick. “I’m always am underdog, I’m an underdog in this fight. I was the biggest underdog in that tournament. Nobody thought I was gonna make it to the finals except for a couple of people that were fans already. I made it and it was a shock to everyone.”
While Maverick doesn’t try to hide from the chip on her shoulder and feels she’s fighting for an opportunity she has already earned, that doesn’t mean she’s looking past Gonzalez.
“I respect her,” Maverick said, “not only her technique but her experience. There’s a reason she’s got so far with Invicta. She has a lot of experience, a lot of time and effort that’s went into her career. But I’ve faced people like that before.”
Maverick oozes confidence (but not arrogance) in her own abilities. That confidence is grounded in her work ethic and notoriously demanding work and training habits. Maverick trains six days a week in individual disciplines, practices MMA every other day, and runs the equivalent of a 5k every day. On top of that, Maverick is currently working toward a PhD in industrial organizational pyschology, a degree she plans to complete in a little over two more years.
For now, Maverick is full-steam ahead in both fighting and graduate school. She recognizes, though, that her window for a successful MMA career is a small one.
“I plan on having both careers going on at once or pursuing fighting if I can get to the top ten in the world. Fighting doesn’t last forever. You can’t be forty and fighting at the highest level making a living. So I figure I will make it as far as I can with fighting, then settle back and have my career.”
It’s reassuring to hear such a young and promising fighter speak with such forethought. Objectively, Maverick seems destined for the UFC, if not a healthy stay among the most elite flyweights in the world. And whether this opportunity is coming too late or at just the right time, Maverick will need to defeat Gonzalez first before a call to the big leagues.
For her part, Maverick is predicting a second-round finish of Gonzalez. “I’ve been working on a lot of new stuff that hopefully comes out in this fight in a very violent manner,” she said.
With a win over Gonzalez, Maverick may remain frustrated, and she may have to fight and win once more to earn a call from the UFC, but ultimately, a win represents a move forward. For Maverick, the going is slow, but she’s confident she’ll accomplish her goals.
“I want to be in the UFC by the end of the year. Before that, I’ll either have the Invicta title, or they’ll call me directly to the UFC.”