Tabatha Ricci had the rug pulled out from under her last week when she found out her opponent for UFC Vegas 61 was no longer able to make the date. Cheyanne Vlismas dropped off the card for undisclosed reasons and Ricci was left looking for an opponent. After putting in the time to game plan for Vlismas, Ricci was understandably unhappy.
“I got pretty upset because I was so ready, and especially mentally ready, for that fight,” Ricci shared. “I trained a whole summer for that, but I understand stuff happens.”
However, shortly after hearing of her opponent falling out, the UFC came to her with a new name. Former strawweight title contender Jessica Penne would step in on short notice against ‘Baby Shark’ and it wouldn’t affect the date of her fight at all. Not only was Ricci excited to get to fight, but she loved the opponent shift.
“I got pretty stoked that I got Jessica [Penne]. I really respect her for taking the fight,” she said. “She’s super respected and well-known in the strawweight division. So I’m pretty stoked.”
Of course, the biggest change is the fact that Penne, unlike her original opponent, is a noted grappler. Ricci, having grown up in both judo and jiu jitsu, has displayed plenty of her prowess in those regards. Despite them both loving the ground game, she’s not sure the fight will end up there. She does know one thing though.
“I think the fight could be on the top or the ground, but I see the fight ending with a knockout or a submission,” she said. “It’s gonna be a finish I just don’t know how yet.”
You can catch Ricci going for that finish as part of the UFC Vegas 61 prelims this Saturday. That fight will air on ESPN+.
You can hear the entire audio of this interview at 1:16.