‘Only Mancunian’ Lerone Murphy appreciates full circle moment, crosses fingers for UFC 304

LAS VEGAS – It’s all full circle for Lerone Murphy.

The last time he was in Las Vegas was in 2015, not as a fighter but as a fan. A lot has changed since Murphy (13-0-1 MMA, 5-0-1 UFC) attended UFC 189, a consensus all-time card headlined by Conor McGregor vs. Chad Mendes.

At that time, Murphy was an amateur, undefeated at 3-0. The goose egg in the loss column was maintained through one more amateur fight and 14 professional bouts.

The success has led him to his first promotional main event on Saturday at UFC Fight Night 241. The card streams on ESPN+.

“It’s massive,” Murphy told MMA Junkie and other reporters Wednesday at a pre-fight news conference. I visited Las Vegas in 2016 to watch McGregor and Mendes, and since then, I’ve always thought this is a place I need to fight. This is the fight capital. Now, we’re here. … My thoughts (when I heard of this matchup) were, ‘Wow. This is my opportunity. This is my breakthrough. This is my time to shine now.'”

Murphy has a well-known and formidable opponent for his first five-round clash. He battles the always-exciting Edson Barboza (24-11 MMA, 18-11 UFC), a man he respects greatly.

“Not really the aspect of being main event, that’s not really it,” Murphy said. “Who I’m fighting is more so the big thing. I’m fighting Edson Barboza, a legend of the sport, a dangerous fighter. That’s what excited me, yeah. … (A win) puts me up there, solidifies my name, puts me among the elite of the elite. It gives me a shot at that top 10 afterward.”

Ten weeks after UFC Fight Night 241, the promotion touches down in Manchester, England for the first time since October 2016. The timing is certainly not ideal, but Murphy hopes the stars align where he leaves Saturday’s bout unscathed enough to compete in his home city.

“Of course, I want to be on that card,” Murphy said. “It’s a Manchester card. I’m a Mancunian. I say, again, I’m the only Mancunian on the roster ever, born and bred. So it’d only be right for me to be on there. But I think it’s six weeks away. Obviously, I’m in a five-round fight. I don’t expect on there. But if we can get through this fight unscathed and with a win, then I’ll definitely be asking the matchmaker to put me on.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 241.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie