In the span of just under two years, Raquel Pennington has gone from a middling 5-5 fighter in the UFC women’s bantamweight division to the #5 ranked contender. She’s won her last four fights inside the Octagon, including a unanimous decision win over former champion Miesha Tate at UFC 205. Unfortunately for the 28-year-old, she’ll be sidelined for the next 6-9 months due to recent shoulder surgery to repair a torn bicep, as she recently revealed ESPN’s Brett Okamoto.
“Yeah, everything went well,” Pennington said. “They thought it was a torn labrum, but when the doctor went inside it ended up being a torn bicep. They had to cut the bicep and anchor it to my bone. They also cleaned up my rotator cuff and labrum while they were in there. The recovery and everything is the same, with it being a torn bicep. It's just going to take some time to heal. They've told me six to nine months. In six months, I should be back on the mats, full blown.”
A very interesting bit of information that Pennington disclosed is that she sparred with Ronda Rousey as part of Rousey’s fight camp for her eventual UFC 207 loss to Amanda Nunes.
“I actually talked to Ronda the night of the weigh-ins in New York [before UFC 205],” Pennington said. “I bumped into Ronda and she asked if she could contact me and bring me out for some work. I've been out to Los Angeles to see her and [teammate] Shayna Baszler before. A lot of us are friends outside the Octagon. I'm always up for challenges. Everybody brings something new to the table. It was definitely a solid experience.”
There was, of course, very little insight as to Rousey’s pre-fight preparations, as she negotiated a virtual media blackout in the lead-up to the Nunes fight, and has otherwise had limited media appearances since her November 2015 loss to Holm.
How exactly did the sparring sessions go for Rousey and Pennington? Well ... according to Pennington, she legally can’t delve into specifics.
“I can't really talk about how sparring went or what we did,” Pennington said. “Ronda asked me to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so I did. All I can say is the fact I was able to put in work with her and that it was solid work. I can't say too much more than that.”
This isn’t the first time an NDA has been used in this situation. In 2010, Randy Couture signed a non-disclosure agreement when he trained with Brock Lesnar leading up to Lesnar’s UFC 116 fight vs. Shane Carwin. That was Lesnar’s first fight after his life-threatening battle with diverticulitis, and less than two years after he stopped Couture to become the UFC heavyweight champion.
As for whether or not Rousey will fight again, Pennington wants to see the former champion continue competing in the sport.
“I would hope so,” she said. “I would hope she wouldn't finish her career like that. Obviously, I'd say that about anybody. Any athlete, you wouldn't want to see them go out like that. It'd be good to see her pick her head up and get in there and get another fight in.”