After a bloody battle against Amanda Nunes in which she re-injured her surgically repaired left leg, Raquel Pennington has had time to heal up, rehab, and is now confident the limb is ready to go.
Denver, CO — Colorado native Raquel Pennington gets to fight in her own back yard at UFC Denver this weekend. It’s the UFC’s 25th anniversary show, and Pennington will be taking on the UFC’s inaugural women’s featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie. Of course, de Randamie was later stripped of the title after refusing to fight Cris Cyborg, and Saturday night’s main card battle between Pennington and the Dutch fighter will take place at 135lbs.
For Pennington (9-6), she’s looking to bounce back from a title challenge loss to Amanda Nunes. It was a brutal, bloody fight. One that saw her injure her surgically repaired leg early in the bout. Now getting back to work at home, Penning told reporters including Cageside Press at Wednesday’s open workouts that “in general, it’s just exciting” to be fighting at home. The leg, meanwhile, is good to go.
“It’s exciting that I don’t have to travel anywhere. Less stress, getting ready to pack and whatnot,” Pennington said Wednesday. “I’m just excited. I have a lot of family who loves and supports me. I have a huge support system as it is. But just being able to have all my family — I believe everybody’s going to be at the fight. It’s a little nerve wracking, but I couldn’t be more happy, more excited.”
Coming into UFC Denver, her biggest concern was the aforementioned leg injury, which led to major trouble in the fight against Nunes. Pennington hurt it early, and at one point told her corner that she wanted out of the fight. They convinced her to stay the course, though she ultimately lost the battle.
“My main focus coming into this was actuality a lot of physical therapy,” Pennington explained. “I needed to get that leg better. My leg was not ready for that Amanda Nunes fight,” she admitted. “So that was my main focus, so that way I could get back to feeling a lot like myself. As soon as I got that feeling a lot better, obviously just getting back in the groove of everything, and having fun again.”
Ultimate, Pennington said she’s “pretty confident that the leg is a lot better. I got really aggressive with physical therapy three to four times a week. We did a lot of desensitizing to it. And then my entire fight camp I trained without shin guards. We did a lot, a lot of conditioning to it.”
“If this leg doesn’t hold up this time,” she finished on the subject, “I don’t know what’s going to do it.”
There was also the emotional strain that came with so many questions stemming from her fight against Amanda Nunes. A lot of criticism was aimed at Pennington’s corner for not stopping the fight when it appeared clear she had no chance to win in the bout at UFC 224. Not to mention when she actually aired her desire to stop. Having to “constantly live on media” to defend her corner and why she trusted them become draining for the fighter.
That said, she’s ready to get back out there and get her hand raised. Key, “going out and having fun. When I’m having fun, that’s when I’m unstoppable.”
Asked whether opponent Germaine de Randamie could be considered a dirty fighter after her late blows on Holly Holm at UFC 208, Pennington said that “you kind of just get into a zone. If you’re not paying attention, if you can’t hear your corners, and you don’t know where the time’s at, and you’re just going, and you’re in the zone and you’re striking, I don’t — I watched the fight, yeah the punch was thrown after [the bell], but I don’t categorize her as a dirty fighter.”
However, “I don’t think she won that fight,” Pennington said of de Randamie’s fight against Holm.
UFC Fight Night 139 (UFC Denver) takes place Saturday, November 10 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. The card airs on FOX Sports 1.