Take a deep breath, close your eyes, make a wish, and blow out all your candles. On September 5, 2015, Raquel “Rocky” Pennington’s (6-6) birthday wishes came to fruition with a win over Jessica Andrade (13-5) at UFC 191: Johnson vs. Dodson 2. In an interview with Funky Monkey MMA, Pennington flashed back to the moment before extinguishing the twenty-seven candles ablaze on her ceremonious cake. Not only was Pennington’s win punctuated with self indulgence, but she also yearned for others within her sphere to mirror her merrymaking: her teammate, Sharon Jacobsen, and Invicta Fighting Championships.
Pennington and Andrade crossed paths previously at UFC 171: Hendricks vs. Lawler 1, but the outcome froze any jubilation for Pennington at the time. Being her first time slated on a pay-per-view’s undercard, Pennington reflected on her shortcomings at this moment in her UFC infancy,
“The first time we fought, not to take anything away from Jessica, but I mentally beat myself, and that time, to where I am now, I’ve excelled as a fighter. I’ve really changed my game and grown. I’ve gotten more comfortable in my skin, with my technique and believing in myself. I had to find that passion again and learn how to have fun. That was pretty much the big difference that I made, just having fun.”
Often fighters are heard discussing the losses they wish they could have back, and Pennington exclaimed her fighter spirit was rejuvenated when she planned her Reebok-themed party in a rematch against Andrade at UFC 191,
“I was excited. It’s not everyday that a fight lands on your birthday, so I was like, ‘Ya know, that’d be a good birthday present for myself and get back into the grind of everything.’”
The guillotine finish was spectacular, as was the extra birthday cash earned with a Performance of the Night bonus, but Pennington pointed out what truly informed her of magic in the air,
“Another thing that made it exciting for me was my Dad being there. He was like, ‘I get to celebrate your birthday and actually be at one of your fights.’ It was just an exciting time for me.”
Riding the hoopla-induced high of her birthday blowout until crashing later on that night, Pennington wasn’t allotted any time to stew in her celebratory hangover. Instead, Pennington had RSVP’d to attend the corner of her teammate, Sharon Jacobsen (4-1), the following evening at Invicta 14: Evinger vs. Kianzad, in which Jacobsen earned a unanimous decision victory over Jamie Moyle:
“Me and Sharon started training together, probably, two fights ago. I met her when I was training for the Ashley Evans-Smith fight, and she’s a little monster at 115. It’s been an exciting run to be in her corner and watch her grow as well. To go out there and have an athlete such as Sharon go out there and perform, it’s exciting.”
A strong advocate for female mixed martial arts, Pennington goes to great lengths to present Invicta Fighting Championships as a gift wrapped too beautifully to open, though she’s always eager to tear through the doors as soon as the venue opens for an event,
“I’ve only missed one [Invicta event], and that was when, I believe, they were in Texas. Other than that, I’ve completely supported their show, from the very first one. I think it’s really great what Shannon [Knapp] does for women’s MMA, and I think it’s important to really remember where you came from. She gave us a happy home before a lot of us got into the UFC, and I think we should still, definitely, support that.”
Possessing proper birthday grammar, Pennington didn’t spill the beans of the festivities she mulled over in her MMA imaginations on the day she was introduced to the world by Bruce Buffer until sitting down with Funky Monkey MMA. The beauty of MMA is that anything is possible, and Pennington is already jotting down aspirations for next year.
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