UFC women’s bantamweight contender Raquel Pennington has described the nature of the leg injury that forced her to remain on the sidelines for over a year-and-a-half.
At UFC 224 in May 2018, Pennington challenged for gold for the first time on MMA’s biggest stage. At the time, she was riding a four-fight win streak, including victories over former 135-pound queen Miesha Tate, Bethe Correia, and Jéssica Andrade, who went on to win the strawweight title in 2019.
In her way of glory was Nunes, who’d already defended her title against Ronda Rousey and Valentina Shevchenko. In the fifth round of her clash with Pennington, the “Lioness” made it three for three with retentions thanks to a convincing TKO finish.
Prior to her title shot, Pennington hadn’t been in action for over 18 months. The lengthy layoff came after “Rocky” broke her leg in a scary hunting accident, forcing her initial bout with Nunes to be canceled. While riding an ATV down a mountain, Pennington flipped, with the motor pinning her leg down.
As she pursues another championship opportunity, Pennington has looked back on the incident, which she says almost saw her leg amputated. With the seriousness of the injury in mind, the Colorado native believes she was far from ready upon her return to the Octagon against Nunes.
“For me, that was a rough time, when her and I ended up fighting. Coming back from an 18-month layoff, coming back from the injury I sustained in my leg and that nerve damage,” recalled Pennington during her appearance at the UFC 273 post-fight press conference last month.
“I’ve never experienced—almost had my leg amputated, and me, emotionally, just rushed back in. I was nowhere near ready for that.”
Pennington Hopes To Get Loss To “Beatable” Nunes back
While Pennington went on to suffer losses to Germaine de Randamie and Holly Holm before returning to her best, Nunes maintained her dominance for the following years. Her two-division reign was only broken last December when the Brazilian shared the cage with unlikely champion Julianna Peña.
Pennington believes her fellow TUF alum‘s championship crowning was a healthy reminder that no titleholder is invincible, no matter how dominant they appear. “Rocky” is hoping to hammer home that point by earning a rematch with the “Lioness” down the line.
“Honestly, (the Nunes loss) just stirred up the division, which I think gave a lot of excitement to all the other competitors in there,” noted Pennington. “A lot of people get kind of—the same way with Ronda (Rousey), no disrespect to anybody, they freakin’ do exactly what they needed to do, but it’s almost like, when you have one person who’s constantly winning, people start marking them as these invincible people.
“At the end of the day, they’re just people. They’re doing what they need to do, but everybody’s beatable,” continued Pennington. “I feel like, with Amanda losing, it was just that reminder to the division that she’s a human being and she’s beatable… As a competitor, I would love to redeem myself in that fight.”
Pennington took a sizeable leap closer to making that dream a reality this past weekend at UFC 273. On the preliminary card, the 33-year-old squared off with Aspen Ladd. Having secured a comfortable decision victory, “Rocky” has risen to No.4 in the women’s bantamweight rankings.
With Peña and Nunes set to rematch later this year, Pennington will be targeting another win to place herself in a position to challenge the victor down the line.
How do you think a rematch between Raquel Pennington and Amanda Nunes would play out?