Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight contender Raquel Pennington took on Amanda Nunes over the weekend for the undisputed bantamweight title.
The bigger talking point came at the conclusion of the fourth round when Pennington -- who was visibly hurt -- walked back towards her corner and immediately told her coaches that she was “done.” Instead of throwing in the towel and calling off the fight, Pennington’s coaches encouraged her to go back out for the final round.
The decision from Pennington’s corner not to call off the fight drew scathing criticism from fans who have accused the coaches of putting their own agendas over her personal welfare. Pennington went out for the final round and went on to suffer even more damage when Nunes busted open her nose and referee Marc Goddard eventually called off the fight as blood came gushing out of Pennington’s face.
It’s a tricky situation to be in, especially for observers who believe the coaches should be making decisions based on what is best for their fighters, although it’s a difficult decision to make not personally knowing the athlete as they could be privy to things fans aren’t aware of regarding their fighters.
At UFC 188, when former UFC middleweight Nate Marquardt took on Kelvin Gastelum, Trevor Wittman, who was Marquardt’s coach at the time, tried to call off the fight on several occasions before being told only the referee or doctor can stop it. Eventually the doctor stopped the fight after Wittman complained that his fighter was done.
Pennington’s fiancée and fellow UFC fighter Tecia Torres has come out on Instagram to back the team’s decision to convince “Rocky” to come out for the fifth and final round.
“Both us and our coaches agree with the decision made to go into the 5th round. We know Raquel more than anyone else and know if we let her give up on herself going into the last round she would have always regretted it. She fought with heart and grit until the end. “
#Forever I am extremely proud of my lady. You are a warrior babe. Fought every second you possibly could. You continue to amaze me daily. You motivate me to work hard and one day too receive the same opportunity to fight for a UFC championship. We are the 1%ers. Very few will ever know what we go thru as fighters and an even smaller percentage will ever earn the chance to fight on such a big stage and for a world title. #RideOrDie #AlwaysProud PS: Both us and our coaches agree with the decision made to go into the 5th round. We know Raquel more than anyone else and know if we let her give up on herself going into the last round she would have always regretted it. She fought with heart and grit until the end. PSS: Exactly one year ago today you asked me to marry you, I can't freaking wait to wife you! @raquel_pennington
Retired former UFC bantamweight champion Miesha Tate also agreed with Pennington’s corner and talked with MMA on SiriusXM in defense of the Pennington camp:
“I would have done the same thing if I were in her corner’s shoes. It’s important that a fighter loses with dignity, and I think Raquel lost with dignity. She went out there, and she got finished. She went out on her shield. And I would have done the same thing because sometimes when you’re tired and you don’t think you have enough left, your coach’s job is to pull the most out of you. And I think that’s what the corner was trying to do is not let her give up on herself…get her back in the game mentally.”
Tate, who lost to Pennington, has a personal connection with her having coached together on Season 18 of “The Ultimate Fighter” and used that knowledge to speak on who Pennington is as a fighter:
“That’s not really the fighter Raquel is anyway. She was just exhausted and being honest with her emotions at that point. But it doesn’t mean that she was done.”
Tate also believes gender is playing an issue and that if it was a man involved it wouldn’t have been as big as a reaction:
“I kind of think that if it was a male fight, it wouldn’t be such a hot topic of discussion. The man sent the woman back out there and she got bloodied up and finished. She’s a fighter, you know? That’s what fighters do. Fighters go out and fight. And if we lose, we lost because we went out on our shield.”
Tate concluded that “Rocky” will look back at the fight without regret knowing she left everything in the cage:
“I get that she was saying that she wanted to be done, but a lot of people want to be done going into the fifth round of a war.” Tate continued, “I think she’s going to say, ‘I’m glad I went out in the fifth round. I’m glad my coach gave me that extra nudge’ that she got to go out and go out on her shield. She got the opportunity to win or to lose – to finish or to be finished. She had every opportunity in the book, and I think she’ll be glad that she went out for the fifth round and overcame that mental hurdle of not wanting to. And I would appreciate my coach supporting me in every effort to win a world title. She put her whole heart out there and I don’t think she’s going to regret that decision.”