It was just 14 months ago that Raquel Pennington headlined a UFC event.
This week, her fight isn’t one of six included on the main card of UFC Fight Night. UFC invited 12 participants to its media day, and Pennington wasn’t among them.
Pennington’s star power has obviously taken a hit with a brutal TKO loss to Amanda Nunes in that headline event in May 2018 in Brazil, and the setback to Germaine de Randamie in a unanimous decision in Denver in November.
The Harrison High School graduate sees all of this as simply enhancing the opportunity at hand as she prepares to face Irene Aldana on Saturday in San Antonio.
“That challenge, for me, is a big thing,” Pennington said.
At 30, and riding that two-fight losing streak, this could certainly be construed as a make-or-break point in Pennington’s career. But her attitude over the summer hasn’t suggested she views it that way. She’s been rejuvenated by a return to health and a change in gyms and coaches, saying it has rekindled the love of the sport.
Her actions have supported that view.
Pennington made weight at 136 pounds on Friday – something she didn’t do in Denver. She cracked a small smile on the scale and used three exclamation points in expressing her satisfaction with the weigh-in results on social media.
This is a change in demeanor for the usually stoic Colorado Springs fighter with a 9-7 career record and a No. 6 ranking in the UFC women’s bantamweight division.
Aldana (10-4), ranked 10th and riding a three-fight winning streak, eschewed the typical opponent-bashing seen in the sport when discussing Pennington’s ability.
“It’s going to be a war. I think this is going to be a great fight,” Aldana said. “People are going to enjoy this fight. I think that she is well-rounded in every area. She has great boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu and cage fighting. This is going to be a great challenge for me to prove to myself that I can have a complete fight in every area.”
At 5-foot-7, Pennington is two inches shorter than Aldana, a 31-year-old from Culiacan, Mexico. Aldana weighed in at 135 on Friday.
Coverage of the preliminary fights (of which Pennington/Aldana is No. 6 out of seven) begins at 4 p.m. on ESPN from the AT&T Center, with the main card – headlined by Rafael dos Anjos vs. Leon Edwards – set to begin at 7 p.m.