Before the official announcement earlier this month of the bantamweight title bout between Amanda Nunes and Raquel Pennington, rumors were circulating that the contest would be put on the backburner to accommodate a superfight between 135-pound queen Nunes and featherweight champion Cris Cyborg.
Pennington, as expected, was extremely frustrated hearing that these rumors even existed and felt she deserved the title shot rather than awarding someone from a different weight division an opportunity at the crown. What made it even more difficult was that Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White all but confirmed the matchup between Nunes and Cyborg after the Brazilian’s latest victory over Yana Kunitskaya earlier this month. “Rocky” appeared recently on “The MMA Hour” to discuss her frustrations with the situation.
“I have to admit I was frustrated with it and I started making calls right away because I don’t find that very fair at all,” Pennington said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I think I’ve definitely earned this spot and I think that fight deserved to be mine. So the fact that they’re just wanting to see a superfight really pissed me off, given the fact that Cyborg’s in a completely different division and then you’re trying to take the champion from our division and create this huge superfight.
“You just want another girl with another name or two Brazilians? Like, what’s happening here? So there was a lot of frustration there, but it’s kind of one of those things that it’s not really in your control so why let it bother you so much?”
Pennington and Nunes were rumoured to be in talks to fight at UFC 219, although the fight was scrapped when Pennington suffered a leg injury in a hunting accident.
Pennington (9-5) has slowly worked her way up the bantamweight rankings and is currently on a four-fight winning streak. She has notable wins against Miesha Tate and Jessica Andrade. Pennington hasn’t fought since November 2016 at UFC 205, where she earned a unanimous decision victory against Tate.
While Pennington understands the fans want a champion vs. champion fight to see who’s the best over both weight classes, she believes she has earned her shot at the title.
“The part that bothers me is the fact that Cyborg’s in a completely different division,” Pennington said. “She’s at 145, she’s not in our division, and all of us who have been working hard, who have been sitting here waiting for this position or me, myself, coming back from injuries, I feel I have definitely earned my position. I’ve sat here and I’ve grinded my way to the top and done things, it hasn’t been an easy career for me. So I feel like this is something that I definitely deserved and to just all of a sudden, another fight in a completely different division, ‘Oh well, we’re going to make a superfight,’ I don’t get why all these superfights or these interim titles and all this stuff is happening.
“For me, it kind of feels like the worth is being taken away a little bit, I guess you can say, from the championship belts and stuff like that, just because so much stuff is being thrown around and sometimes it feels more of entertainment than it does for sport. But at the end of the day, whatever’s bringing money in for them and like I said, there are some things that are out of your control and you’ve gotta just kind of go with the flow of it.”
Pennington was asked about potentially taking a fight against the best women’s pound-for-pound fighter in Cyborg. While she didn’t dismiss the idea her, she is focussed on the bantamweight belt for now.
“Everybody brings a different challenge to you and Cyborg, yeah, she’s built a reputation for herself. She’s known as the most dangerous woman on the planet,” Pennington said. “She hasn’t lost since 2005 and she’s going out there and she’s destroying girls and she has this 145-pound division and I don’t like to take credit away from anybody or anything, I feel like everybody deserves their position, but for me right now I honestly don’t feel like the 145-pound division makes a whole lot of sense because they’re not bringing in any athletes.
“So it’s like they’re pulling people out of the 135 division and whatnot, but speaking for myself, Cyborg, she’s just another female. Yeah, she’s a little bit heavier, I walk heavier normally, so it wouldn’t be something that I’m gonna say that I’d push to the side, I’m more than definitely willing to go out and fight her one day.”