As Raquel Pennington walked towards the Octagon for her UFC Vegas 37 fight against Pannie Kianzad, UFC correspondent Heidi Androl said something of note. According to her, the 33-year-old former title challenger was “really sick” for 31 days and was in the hospital on a ventilator.
Now, as the current events of the past 18 months would tell us, these are signs of a COVID-19 infection. And during her post-fight scrum after defeating Kianzad via decision, Pennington confirmed everyone’s hunches.
In April, I ended up getting COVID. I coach high school gymnastics, and I think (I got it) from just being around the athletes there. I ended up catching a really bad case, and it kinda just knocked me on my butt.
It was pretty scary, honestly. I ended up in the hospital twice. I was on oxygen, I was on steroids for my heart and my lungs. And the migraine was just one of a kind. It was pain that was, like, going down my spine. They had no answers for me.
So it was kind of one of those things to where you had to truly rest. I remember laying in bed one night, and I was just, like, this can’t be it. Because I really felt like my body was just shutting down on me, and that was gonna be the end of it.
For Pennington, the experience she went through was a life-changer. Now with a fresher perspective, she’s learned to appreciate the sheer enjoyment that fighting brings her.
Fighting is a part of me, but it’s not who I am. And at the end of the day, it was kind of one of those moments where it gave you, like, a real-life reality check. Thought me to be a lot more grateful for things I’ve always been grateful of.
I’ve always felt blessed, but now it just kind of put things into a different perspective. I feel like I just handle life in a completely different way now.
After experiencing that fear that I had from feeling like there wasn’t gonna be a tomorrow to this, like, (fighting) truly is fun.
The win over Kianzad puts “Rocky” on a two-fight win streak as she improves to a record of 12-8.