For Vince Murdock, seeing his name on a UFC card has been a long time coming. Just one year ago, he nearly lost hope that he’d ever reach his dream.
Murdock, a 28-year-old featherweight, expected 2018 to be the year he broke through and landed himself on the UFC’s radar. He traveled to India with hopes of winning a few fights in short time before getting the call from MMA’s top promotion. Instead, he found himself dealing with lies and corruption on the other side of the globe.
While it appeared to be a pipe dream last year, Murdock will get his shot in the UFC on June 29. He will fill in for an injured Chas Skelly and fight Jordan Griffin at UFC Minneapolis.
Murdock sat down with John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock to talk about his terrible experience in India, his strong finish to 2018 and his time with Team Alpha Male.
Vince Murdock returns from a nightmare in India
Murdock’s plan of staying active, getting wins and signing with the UFC got off to a rough start when he was handed a loss in his first fight for Super Fight League, a seasonal, team-based MMA promotion in India. He detailed his experience on two prior episodes of Kumite TV with John Hyon Ko.
Murdock was cut on the side of his head in the first round of his fight against Krishan Rawat. Referee Alan Fenandes called the doctor in after the round ended, and the referee and doctor ultimately decided to wave off the fight. Murdock disputed the call due to the fact that the cut was small and out of his line of sight, but his complaint fell on deaf ears.
According to Murdock, he was told by the athletic commission and SFL CEO Bill Dosanjh that the situation would be rectified, but that never occurred. Still, he remained hopeful that something would be done about the improper stoppage and decided to fight for the promotion again, honoring his two-fight deal.
Once again, Murdock received a controversial loss. He was kicked low by Indian fighter Vikas Dahiya, but was then given a TKO loss after Fenandes — the same referee from his first fight — ruled Murdock unable to continue following the groin strike.
After his second fight, Murdock posted video clips on Instagram of Dahiya kicking him, as well as other opponents, in the groin. Murdock accused the promotion of corruption in the post and dissuaded fighters from joining the promotion.
Murdock said he dealt with a number of other out-of-competition issues in his time with SFL such as low pay, unfulfilled promises and contract disputes.
“That was a super difficult time for me,” Murdock said. “I didn’t think that was something honestly that I was going to recover from. You know, it almost seems like a blur because I’m not really sure how I did recover from it.”
Finishing 2018 strong
The disaster in India took a toll on Murdock.
“[In the] beginning of the year, I said like, this is going to be the best year of my life. I’m going to get in the UFC, and I said all these things, and then the opposite of all that happened,” Murdock said. “I was having the worst year of my life.”
Once he returned to the United States, it took some time to get back to the proper state of mind. Thanks to his fiancee, friends, and family, Murdock was able to land on his feet.
“Towards the end of the year, things started taking a turn,” he said.
Murdock points to the month of September as the moment things changed for the better. He proposed to his girlfriend, and after she said yes, everything started falling into place. In December, Murdock made his return to fighting in a featherweight title bout for Total Warrior Combat.
“I just kind of wanted to go in there and see if I’d gotten better,” Murdock said. “I felt at home. I felt at peace in there, and it felt just like how it was supposed to feel. [I] put things together, got the finish, so it was good.”
Murdock captured the gold with a first-round TKO win, capping off a remarkable turnaround to an otherwise nightmarish year. Just half a year later, he would get the chance to live out his dream as a UFC fighter.
Getting the call
The opportunity to fight Griffin wasn’t the first offer Murdock received from the UFC.
“I’d actually gotten a call for a [135-pound] fight earlier,” Murdock explained. “One of the hardest things for me to do was say ‘No, I’m not in a position to take the fight.'”
Murdock last competed at bantamweight in 2016 when he won a split decision over TJ Laramie at TXC Legends 7. He had competed at featherweight in his past seven fights, so getting back down to 135 would’ve posed significant problems.
Soon after declining the bout offer from the UFC, disappointment overtook him. Murdock apologized to his management and postponed his wedding in hopes of getting one more call from the UFC in 2019.
In June, that second call came. Jeremy Luchau of Iridium Sports Agency broke the news that the UFC wanted Murdock to fill in on short notice at UFC Minneapolis. This time, Murdock swiftly accepted, and a celebration in his car on the phone with Luchau and fellow manager Jason House ensued.
“The whole experience is something I’ll never forget,” Murdock said. “It was super cool. I mean, I’m still thanking them. I’m still running off that high. It’s such a cool experience. You know, I’ve been shooting for this forever, man, and people that know me know how important this is to me.”
As is the case for many UFC newcomers, Murdock only had a small window to prepare for his fight. He doesn’t think that will impact his ability to perform though.
“It was short notice, but it didn’t feel so short,” Murdock said. “I was training hard. I know I pushed myself hard, and I’m confident in how hard I trained.”
Vince Murdock and Urijah Faber
One of the people who has remained with Murdock throughout his unconventional MMA journey is Urijah Faber. Early on in his path, Murdock left home in Michigan to take a look at Team Alpha Male, and it was evident that he’d found his place right away.
“Urijah sort of invited me into his home when I was 20,” Murdock said. “I came to check out the gym just to train, just to see what it was like. I wasn’t a pro yet. And I ended up just never going home. I didn’t move anything there. I had meant to just stay for like a month or something, and I ended up just staying there forever.”
Faber was one of the main reasons why Murdock felt at home with Team Alpha Male, and he feels like that is the case for many others at the gym as well.
“Urijah has done a lot for a lot of people here,” Murdock said. “He really is a giving person and creates an atmosphere for athletes like me and many other athletes that didn’t really have places to go or call home.”
At the age of 40, Faber is ending his retirement for a bout against bantamweight prospect Ricky Simon at UFC Sacramento on July 13. Murdock has been helping Faber get back into the swing of things in training camp leading up to his return.
“He’s huge impact on my career,” Murdock said, “so it’s cool to see him still doing the things that he loves and able to get back in there and still be able to compete.”
Vince Murdock on TJ Dillashaw
Of course, the story of Team Alpha Male will always be closely intertwined with TJ Dillashaw. Since Murdock has been training at Team Alpha Male since 2011, he got to witness firsthand the highs and lows in the relationship between Faber and the former UFC bantamweight champion.
“When I first got here, those guys were just as close as anyone,” Murdock said. “Urijah looked at TJ like he was a brother or a son at the time, and he did a lot of things for him, so their relationship was deep.”
Faber played a significant role in Dillashaw’s rise to the top of the 135-pound division before tension split the two apart.
“I was there the day [Faber] kicked [Dillashaw] out,” Murdock said. “It was a pretty weird experience watching TJ leave the gym and clean his locker out that day.”
In a recent interview with Chael Sonnen, Dillashaw said he would entertain the idea of fighting Faber in the UFC after his two-year suspension for EPO concludes. Murdock said he “100 percent” would watch the two fighters settle their differences in the Octagon.
“I can kind of see that because I think Urijah has some fights left on his contract,” Murdock said. “TJ’s not going to be ranked, so you know what? That would be an interesting fight. I bet you they could play it up, and I could definitely see that happening for sure.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.