“So getting back to it, going in there and fighting that fight against Aldana — who is doing phenomenal right now; it’s not like it was a chump fight — it was a good fight to have back. I didn’t go out there and perform at my best, but I went out there and proved 1001 things to myself.”
Pennington is one of those competitors whose record doesn’t accurately reflect how good of a fighter she is and there is no space on her resume between her victory over Tate and her losses to Nunes and de Randamie that details the myriad challenges and issues she battled in the time between those bouts.
Though most fans are at least vaguely familiar with the fact that she went under the knife following her win at UFC 205 and that her title bout with Nunes had to be pushed back after she was injured, the true impact of a catastrophic injury like that and the physical, emotional, and mental toll it takes on a person is something you can’t fully comprehend unless you’ve been through it.
That’s why her performance against Aldana meant so much to her and how a narrow split decision win has turned into a catalyst for what she hopes is another run towards the top of the division.
“I don’t think people realize all the stuff that I was facing personally or everything we go through in general as athletes,” said Pennington. “It takes a lot to do this sport — mentally, physically, and emotionally — and for more than two years, I was down for the count and really struggling.
“(After getting that win), there is an extreme feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. All those negative emotions I was feeling for so long — all that doubt, all that fear, all that frustration — has gone completely out the window.
“I’ve found my value and gratitude again. I’m genuinely happy and feeling like a freaking athlete again. I’m so excited for January 18.”
Although having her rematch with Holm postponed in October after she’d already finished her camp and made the long flight to Australia was frustrating, and rescheduling the bout for this weekend meant dialing back the holiday cheer, Pennington believes it has all been for the best.
“Having this opportunity to get back out there and put on a performance I know I’m capable of — the performance that most people have been waiting for me to put on — means the world to me,” she said. “I feel ready to conquer what’s in my future and to grab a hold of what I’m capable of; to go out there this weekend and let loose, be the Raquel that I am every day in the gym.
“Everything has a way of working out and now I’m 10 times more excited, 10 times more motivated and whether it’s pretty or ugly, nothing is stopping me from getting my hand raised.”
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