SAN ANTONIO • Raquel Pennington didn’t “reset” her whole career over a one-night engagement.
The Colorado Springs native intends to fight again after her UFC Fight Night victory on Saturday. And relatively soon.
“Truth is, I’m not done. I’m just getting started, and I’m having fun again,” the 30-year-old Pennington said after defeating Irene Aldana in a split decision. “I would like to get another fight before the year’s over. We have plenty of time.”
A fight in the next five months would represent a drastic acceleration to what Pennington’s calendar has looked like in recent years. Prior to Saturday’s event in San Antonio, the Harrison High School graduate had fought just three times in three years.
But the main reasons for the long layoffs between fights were injuries and health problems.
“I felt like I lived at the doctor’s office,” she said.
Now healthy, she wants to continue to “climb the ladder” in the UFC women’s bantamweight division, which she entered Saturday as the No. 6 contender behind champion Amanda Nunes. Aldana, who had won three consecutive fights, was ranked tenth.
Pennington’s previous two fights were against Nunes in the champion’s native Brazil, a loss so lopsided that controversy swirled around Pennington’s corner’s decision to send her back out for a third round. Then came a loss in a unanimous decision to No. 1 contender Germaine De Randamie in Denver in which Pennington missed weight as she was fighting a thyroid issue that inhibited her ability to control her weight.
Looking back, Pennington (10-8) felt she shouldn’t have been in the fight with Nunes in the first place because of the injuries – but who’s going to turn down a title fight and a chance to headline an event? – and she has wiped the De Randamie fight from her memory aside from shaking her head at the “completely unprofessional” act of missing weight.
“Literally, my body was shutting down on me,” she said. “There was nothing I could do.”
She says what feels so different now is she has control back of her body and she’s switched gyms and two of her three coaches, seizing control of her approach and mindset.
Wrestling coach Jason Kutz, who also coaches wrestling at Fountain-Fort Carson High School, said the approach in the most recent nine-week camp was not to look at the fight against Aldana as a must-win. But he knew she was fully aware that a third consecutive loss could be devastating to her future.
“I don’t care who you are, you lost two in a row, it’s a must-win – in her head at least,” Kutz said. “I’m super happy for her, super proud of her.”
For now, Pennington said she’ll take two weeks off and then regroup. She’s still a gymnastics coach for a consolidated Division 20 team based out of Rampart, so that will keep her busy.
When UFC calls with the next fight offer, she’ll answer it.
“I have a passion in my heart and I’m just chasing it,” Pennington said. “I’m going to continue doing what I do, getting top fights. I never turn down anything that comes my way.
“This is still in me. I still have a lot to give.”