In the summer of 2020, Mariya Agapova bursts onto the UFC scene. On the heels of back-to-back wins in Invicta FC, she got her UFC contract and a bout with Hannah Cifers. Halfway through the first round, she locked up a rear naked choke and people instantly began on the hype train of the then 23-year old Kazakh.
However, her sophomore effort would not be as dazzling. After finding early success against Shana Dobson, Agapova emptied the tank, and wound up tired and struggling. She’d go on to lose that bout by TKO, but would wind up gaining some valuable insight during that fight. That insight led her to working with a new coach who didn’t just help the physical side of her game.
“During the fight, you have to be calm. If you’re not calm, nothing is going to work. You just waste all of your energy. It’s even kind of hard to fight because you feel pressure all over your body,” Agapova said. “Roger [Krahl] helped me a lot with this – helped me calm down before my fights. All fighters deal with anxiety before a fight, that’s normal. Everyone experiences it. It just depends on how you deal with it.”
Now, after picking up her first victory with Krahl by her side, Agapova is looking to build momentum. However, standing in front of her is a familiar face in former training partner Maryna Moroz. Not only will it be her first time fighting a former training partner, but it will come with another first for Agapova as well.
“It’s the first time in my life that I’m fighting someone who I do not really like,” she said. “I always experienced respect and respect my opponents, and for this opponent, I don’t feel really much respect.”
That lack of respect comes on the heels of some heavy accusations lofted from Moroz. The Ukrainian-born Moroz claims misconduct and erratic behavior from Agapova. These claims from Moroz set to test the resolve and calmness that Krahl has been developing in his new pupil.
“I think that can be fun, but I also think that may be bad with my emotions,” Agapova said. “Maryna tried to give a lot of negativity to make me hate her, make me want to punch her hard and waste all my energy.”
And when asked about the accusations, that’s precisely what Agapova thinks Moroz is doing – she’s trying to get in her head.
“She’s trying to get me off my game and bring it to her game because she knows that I’m kind of an aggressive person and it’s really easy to get me to be aggressive,” she said. “She’s trying to drive me crazy like this, to make me angry.”
Whether or not this is a good gameplan for Moroz, Agapova doesn’t approve of the tactic – not only because it harms her reputation for a fight, but also because it’s dishonorable.
“I don’t think these are the actions of a strong person,” she said. “I think that she’s just showing her weakness and that’s it.”
The bad blood gets settles this Saturday as part of the prelims of UFC 272.
You can hear the entire audio of this interview at 1:55.