When Raquel Pennington came back to her corner following round four of her one-sided title bout with Amanda Nunes at UFC 224, she uttered something to her coaches that you don’t hear all that often in the Octagon - “I’m done.” But instead of saving their fighter from more punishment, they instructed her to go back out there. She did, and was finished in round five.
But part of the reason she felt she was done didn’t come to light until Pennington said it today as a guest on The MMA Hour - she suffered a leg injury very early on. First though, she took the time to defend her coaches from criticism (via MMA Fighting):
“I’m actually proud of my coaches. I know a lot of people are going against what they said and thinking all this different stuff, and it’s easy to judge, but you never know what’s happening in that moment. At the end of the day, my coaches know me best. They know my toughness and they know what I can handle, and I trust my coaches with everything that I have, and I know they wouldn’t put me in a situation that I can’t handle. I was going through a moment where I was obviously frustrated because of the facts with my legs. I was scared to step in and actually let my hands go, because the minute I would start to close the distance, Amanda would attack the leg.
“Those initial kicks really got me to a point where I started to break for a second, and the minute that I turned around and told my coaches that, and then I actually turned around and looked at my head coach and looked him in the eyes, I knew it still had it within me.”
“I agreed with my coaches as soon as the fight was done,” Pennington said. “I agreed with them in that moment, because at the end of the day, the ball’s still in my court. I could’ve easily waved off the fight. I could’ve sat down and tapped out. But I choose not to. I choose to pull my head out of my ass, basically, and not give up on myself. Because at the end of the day, when you give up, it’s a whole different ballgame there. Quitting is not an option in that aspect, and in that moment, I was quitting on myself. And that’s when a coach steps in and they push their athlete.
“I would’ve been mad,” Pennington added, “and I would’ve been more mad at myself, so I’m glad that my coaches didn’t let me give up on myself.”
In fact, the first leg kick of the fight left Pennington in major pain. It was the same leg she broke in a motorcycle accident last year, and she had issues with it right from away:
“I felt it the minute I stood back up,” Pennington said. “As soon as it made contact with my leg and my legs went out from underneath me, as soon as I tried to stand back up, it felt the exact same way as when I originally broke it. So it was kind of a terrifying feeling, just given the fact that I still had about 24 minutes left in a fight. Then she nailed it a second time and the pain that just sunk in made me want to throw up. So it was from the very get-go.”
As for the actual damage to the leg, Pennington isn’t sure yet. She stated that the medical treatment in Rio was “terrible” so she flew home on Sunday. She will know more soon after getting it checked out in the US.