This season of the Ultimate Fighter is a season of many ‘firsts’. The first all female cast, the first season to crown a division champion, the first season where fighters were seeded and the first season to feature a female fighter of Levantine origin. Yup…. You heard that one right. Randa Markos, born in Baghdad, is one of the first 16 female strawweight’s brought into the UFC. She also promptly made her unofficial UFC debut on the opening episode of the season and emerged victorious in a match few expected her to win.
Born in Baghdad, Randa’s parents fled the country on foot during the Iran/Iraq war and walked the almost 800 KM to Turkey where the family sought refuge. Two years after arriving to Turkey the family immigrated to Canada, a place Randa has called home ever since.
“I feel very proud to represent the Middle East and Canada” Randa said in a phone interview with our correspondent.
It was during her time in high-school in Canada that Randa got into wrestling much to the dismay of her traditional parents who had to pull her out of her class. Not one to be denied, Randa signed up to the wrestling team the next school year but told her parents that she had signed up to the volleyball team instead. She continued wrestling until the end of her school career before she caught the jiu-jitsu bug as a senior.
Asked how she made the transition into wrestling, Randa said that she “was cage side when my then boyfriend (and now husband) got into the cage for his first fight. I was hooked!”. She made her debut shortly after although she admits feeling “really scared beforehand, but always confident she could go back to her wrestling if things got tricky”. Randa would go on to build a 3-1 amateur record before amassing a 4-1 professional record with her only defeat coming by way of decision in 2014.
“I heard through the grapevine that the UFC were casting for TUF 20 and decided that I really wanted to go for it. I went to Vegas for the tryouts and although it was intimidating walking in I felt I did a good job. I wasn’t sure they would call me back because I tend to be a bit quiet and shy. When they did though I was on cloud 9! It was the most amazing thing ever”.
Randa would become on of the 16 females on TUF 20.
Since the UFC decided to introduce a women’s strawweight division in this season of TUF and would award a title at the culmination of the show they decided to seed fighters for the first time and assign fighters to their coaches based on their seeding place. Gilbert Melendez picked Tecia Torres as his first pick. She was seeded third, meaning that Anthony Pettis would automatically have the 14th seed in his team… Randa Markos.
“I was surprised that I was ranked 14th. I though maybe because I am quiet they didn’t know much about me but it also meant that I had nothing to prove and nothing to lose. I chose not to watch videos of Tecia fight and instead rely on my instincts during the fight. During our initial exchanges I felt that she wasn’t comfortable with my grappling and was more of a stand-up fighter. So I made use of my grappling skills to win that fight”
The 14th seed beat the 3rd seed. Based on current UFC rankings, that would be akin to Stefan Struve beating Cain Velasquez… Or Tim Boetsch beating Chris Weidman…. Or Charles Oliviera beating Jose Aldo. You get the picture.
Randa, the Baghdadi who was not expected to win, took apart Team Melendez’ first pick and secured her spot in the quarterfinals where she will face the winner between Felice Herrig and Heather Clark.