Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

Criticism as UFC 224 fighter says she’s ‘done’ but her corner sends her back out in brutal beating

Raquel Pennington wanted to quit but her cornerman convinced her to keep going in gory title fight

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 May, 2018, 12:42pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 May, 2018, 12:42pm

Following four punishing rounds against Amanda Nunes at UFC 224, Raquel Pennington said she was “done.” However, her corner men convinced her to go back out for the fifth and final round, and they were criticised for doing so after Pennington took a further beating that many found unnecessary and upsetting.

Pennington had gamely contested the first 20 minutes against the UFC’s bantamweight champion in their title fight on Saturday, but she paid for it with a nose that was the most visible sign of the damage inflicted by Nunes’s torrent of punches and kicks. As she sat in her corner after the fourth round, she told her coaches, “I’m done.”

“I want to be done,” she added.

“No, no, no,” the 29-year-old was told. “Let’s power through this. Let’s believe. Change your mind-set. Change your mind-set. Let’s just throw everything we got. We’ll recover later. Throw everything we got.”

Pennington (9-6, 1 KO) didn’t spend much time questioning the advice she was being given. Instead, she waded in one more time against Nunes (16-4, 11 KOs), who won the title two years ago with a first-round submission of Miesha Tate, then defended it with a 48-second technical knockout of Ronda Rousey and a five-round split decision over Valentina Shevchenko.

About halfway through the fifth round, Nunes won again by technical knockout, after raining blows down on her beleaguered foe. As Pennington lay on the canvas in a pool of her own blood, with her nose appearing broken, many observers, including MMA fighters and analysts, wondered why her corner did not heed her words between rounds and move to protect their fighter.

Even Nunes, who didn’t learn of Pennington’s attempt to stop the fight until after the contest ended, said her corner should have listened. “It’s sad, because you could avoid something,” Nunes said. “She went to the hospital. It might be a bad injury for her to go to the hospital.

“If she didn’t have the right conditioning to fight, then the coach should have thrown in the towel, for sure,” Nunes added. “I think my coach wouldn’t let me go through that.”

However, Tate (18-7, 3 KOs), who lost to Pennington at UFC 205 in November, said she “would have done the same thing” if she had been in the latter’s corner. “I think that it’s important that a fighter loses with dignity, and I think that Raquel lost with dignity,” Tate said on SiriusXM Radio. “She went out there and she finished, she went out on her shield.”

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“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,” Tate said. “I think that’s what the corner was trying to do – not let her give up on herself, get her back into the game, mentally.”

Tate added that she didn’t think this would be “such a hot topic of conversation” if it had been a male fighter who was encouraged to keep going. “Just the fact that a man sent a woman back out there, and she got bloodied up and finished, it’s like, hey, she’s a fighter, you know? That’s what fighters do,” Tate said. “I get that she was saying she wanted to be done, but a lot of people want to be done going into the fifth round of a war ... 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.”

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Tate also noted that this was no ordinary fight but a showdown for “a world title,” and others offered a similar viewpoint, claiming that Pennington’s coaches were likely recognising that, while their fighter was almost certainly going to lose, this might be her only shot to win a UFC championship. The radio host to whom Tate was speaking, Michael Stets, opined that rather than being a “shell of herself,” Pennington merely had “a busted up nose.”

“Let’s not go overboard,” he added.