Calgary Herald

Windsor warrior to battle on Ultimate Fighter


The UFC’s first women’s strawweigh­t champion likely will have a compelling story to tell.

Australian Alex (Astro Girl) Chambers has a degree in astrophysi­cs. Heather Jo (Hurricane) Clark used to relish the enforcer role in hockey. Lisa Ellis lives in a gym. Carla (Cookie Monster) Esparza used to own two pigs. Angela (Overkill) Hill won an art scholarshi­p to college.

Justine Kish spent five years in a Russian orphanage before she was adopted by an American family. Angela Magana, whose mother overdosed on heroine, was born addicted to the drug and later was told she would never walk again after falling down three storeys. Bec Rawlings wanted to be a strawberry when she grew up.

Randa Markos, the lone Canadian in the 16-woman cast of Season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter, escaped Iraq as a child and survived more hardship in her adopted country.

The UFC is using the reality TV show to crown its first strawweigh­t (115-pound) champion, bringing its number of women’s divisions to two alongside the bantamweig­ht (135-pound) class. The MMA organizati­on has eight men’s divisions.

The show, which just started filming, will premiere Sept. 10.

The progress of the cast is shown by an on-set fight bracket, next to a shiny championsh­ip belt.

“I see it when I walk through the hallway and I’m mesmerized,” said coach Gilbert Melendez, ranked No. 2 among lightweigh­t contenders. “If that’s not going to motivate these new girls, I don’t know what is.”

“That belt changes lives,” said rival coach and lightweigh­t champion Anthony (Showtime) Pettis, who will fight Melendez at the end of the show.

The UFC purchased the contracts of some of the cast from the Invicta women’s promotion. Others like Markos made it via open tryouts.

“We’ve all trained our ass off to get here,” said Markos after the cast was revealed Thursday. “It’s going to be a good show.”

For Markos, her road to a possible MMA championsh­ip started 28 years ago in Iraq. She left when she was three.

“We struggled a lot to get here,” she said.

That struggle continued in Canada. These days Markos does not see much of her father, who was a soldier in Iraq.

“He watched a lot of people die in front of him. He’s been through a lot,” she said.

It’s a complicate­d family dynamic. “We still love him, we still care about him, we still check up on him and everything. But he’s not really with us right now.”

Markos, who has two brothers and a sister, credits her mother — who works in a grocery store — for keeping the whole family together through tough times.

“The strongest person I’ve ever met. The strongest person that I’ve ever seen in my life — mentally, physically. She’s been through so much yet she still kept us all together.”

Markos got into wrestling first. It offered a chance to escape conflict at home while offering her a chance to win or lose on her own. She transition­ed into jujitsu, when she ran out of options in wrestling.

Markos (4-1) made her pro MMA debut in November 2012, after a twoyear stretch in which one fight after another fell apart.

“I continued training for a fight every time,” she said. “I trained really hard for two years.”

She won by submission stopping Allanna Jones in the third round.

Markos, who is married, works full-time as a pharmacy technician. After her nine-to-five job, she trains until late in the evening at Windsor’s Maximum Training Centre.

“I just feel the harder the work, the better I feel with my training,” she said.

It means she and her husband have to find time together late at night and weekends. Just one of the many sacrifices that have been made along the way.

“I’ve had a lot of support behind me,” she said. “A lot of people from Windsor, I mean I have a whole country behind me right now.”

“I’m the only Canadian here. I’m also from the Middle East so I’m representi­ng all the Middle Eastern women around the world. …”

 ?? Neil Davidson/The Canadian Press ?? Randa Markos of Windsor, Ont., is the lone Canadian in the cast for Season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter reality TV show introduced in Las Vegas on Thursday.
Neil Davidson/The Canadian Press Randa Markos of Windsor, Ont., is the lone Canadian in the cast for Season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter reality TV show introduced in Las Vegas on Thursday.

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