Randa Markos began her mixed martial arts journey a dozen years ago — a dozen later, and her mentality has come full circle.
The Canadian was a key part of the second all-women season of The Ultimate Fighter which took place in 2014. With that came the introduction of the 115-pound strawweight division to the UFC. Since then, Markos has racked up numerous degrees of experience whether it be defeating former champions, fighting to draws, or most recently, an unfortunate disqualification.
Markos, 36, took on Luana Pinheiro in May. After a wild first four minutes of action, the Judo black belt in Brazil’s Pinheiro hit a headlock takedown that left her in a top position on her knees. As Markos scrambled to get her opponent off of her, an illegal up-kick landed to the face thus rendering Pinheiro unable to continue.
“I did ask for a rematch and they said they don’t think they’re going to allow that so I don’t know what happened, I don’t know why,” Markos told MyMMANews. “It was just a weird, weird situation and I’m really glad that everybody saw what I saw and what I felt. It was kind of like, in the moment, ‘Okay, there’s no way this just happened. There’s no way this is happening right now. What the hell?’ And I was thinking in my head like how do I explain this? I didn’t know what to make of it. Then I watched the replay and I heard the commentators react to the replay and I was like okay, weight lifted off my shoulders. They see what I felt.
“I really, really wanted a rematch. Maybe we’ll see each other down the line but they’re not going to make that happen right now. It really made me realize it doesn’t matter how hard you work, it doesn’t matter how much you want it, with MMA, anything can happen.”
Leading up to the Pinheiro fight, Markos detailed how she sacrificed potentially more than she ever had before in her career.
Still rocking the natural jet-black hair color at the time, Markos joined the team at TriStar in Montreal following her first UFC against Aisling Daly at UFC 185. Markos would train away from her Windsor, Ontario home with the iconic MMA gym for her high-profile matchup with debuting former queen of KSW, Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
Aside from the result not being what Markos hoped for. the overall time with TriStar just didn’t seem to fit her. To prepare for Pinheiro, Markos overcame her discouragement of doing a camp away from home by once again doing just that.
“The Quiet Storm” found herself in Texas mid-pandemic as part of Team Lutter coached by former UFC title challenger Travis Lutter. The time at Team Lutter didn’t leave Markos feeling as if she was trying to be changed as a fighter like at TriStar.
Due to the size of the latter gym, Markos also felt there to simply be a lack of guidance. She fully intends on returning to Texas for training with the plethora of training partners she had to work with — not only at Team Lutter but at Main Street Boxing & Muay Thai in Houston.
“I never saw myself training with other girls, and they have a lot of girls over there, training with her and others,” Markos said of training with veterans like Jessica Aguilar. “It was really cool. They have a really good set-up over there as well. I had never met her before, she’s a really cool person and really cool to train with.”
With 31 total fights under her belt at this stage, Markos finds herself feeling better physically than she did in her 20s. Something she attributes to eating healthy year-round as opposed to just for fight camps.
Additionally, the mental struggles have become well documented for the Baghdad native.
“A lot I’ve learned from talking to sports psychologists, doing my own thing, all of this stuff, is just figuring out who you are and how you perform as a person,” Markos said. “I was raised differently. I was raised with abuse, I was raised with not showing your feelings. No one says ‘I love you,’ like that’s kind of weird when people tell you ‘I love you,’ family members, we don’t say that. We’re not affectionate. So to get into my emotional side and figure out how mentally to fix it was a struggle for me and it still is.
“I just came to a point where I’m just going to work as hard as possible and do everything in my power physically, and just hope that it’s enough for me. Because that’s really how I started. I didn’t really think about anything. I just did it. I worked hard and once I got my emotions involved and overthinking, that’s where everything is like at a standstill. I feel like a lot of athletes go through that and I thought to just go back to the way you were before. Stop thinking, stop letting emotions get involved, and just work hard, do the best you can, and whatever happens happens.”
Simplicity is sometimes the key we’ve all been searching for the whole time. For Markos, removing the overcomplications and worries brings her mind back to those early days when she began this career of combat in the first place.
Markos currently anticipates an Oct. 23 clash with former Invicta FC champion, Livia Renata Souza — but the bout has yet to be made official as a location is still unknown.
A loss would be five straight for the second most active strawweight in UFC history. What might typically feel like a must-win scenario, no matter who or when the next fight is, isn’t something Markos is stressing about as she may have in the past.
Ultimately, Randa Markos is just longing to have fun beating someone up.
“It’s honestly not bothering me,” she said of the four-fight skid. “I mean, it bothers me, obviously. Like, I wish that things were different last year. With the training, it just sucked, you know? I’m glad the UFC understands with all the COVID stuff and not being able to cross the border for my fight with Mackenzie Dern. I didn’t grapple at all for that fight because I couldn’t cross the border to get to the gym that I train at.
“It just sucked but it happened and I know I’m better than that, I know I’m better than my last fights and I wish I was able to showcase that in my last fight with Luana but things happen and I’m just looking forward to going in there again and hurting somebody, to be honest (laughs). I’m at a point where I don’t care about the outcome anymore, I just want to have fun and do what I want to do and what I love to do. Whatever happens, happens. Obviously, I care about my career, I love fighting. This is my passion. I’ve done it my whole life basically. I love the competition, I love learning, I love growing.
“I’m at that point where I feel I just love seeing improvement in me and I want to go out there and just improve and do well, and just hurt somebody,” Markos continued. “This is just what we do. This is why I’m a fighter. Not because I wanna score points. I just want to hurt somebody and get my hand raised.”
Drake is an MMA writer based out of Brush Prairie, Washington, USA who specializes in feature pieces, the women’s fight scene, lists, news coverage, and rankings. He has been a passionate fan of MMA ever since 2009. Drake has most notably written for BJPenn.com, FanSided, The Body Lock, South China Morning Post, MyMMANews, WhatCulture, Cageside Press, Sherdog, The Scrap, and MMA Today. He has also written for and created video content for RT Sport. As for other sports, Drake is a longtime fan of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @DrakeRiggs_ . Also check out all of his video content on YouTube at YouTube.com/DrakeRiggs where he uploads fighter interviews, podshows, and various other types of content.