At UFC 224 in Brazil, Amanda Nunes will have a new challenger for her crown in Raquel Pennington. Prior to the event, we’re going to dive in and look at the lady we know as Raquel “Rocky” Pennington.
Pennington grew up in Colorado Springs playing sports such as basketball and volleyball but felt as if she always wanted to box. She graduated from Harrison High School in 2007 as secretary of the National Honors Society, with loads of athletic and academic scholarships. But she never got to take part in any sports on a collegiate level due to a broken back.
At the age of 19, Pennington began training in martial arts, and despite her family not wanting her to fight, “Rocky” started fighting as an amateur in 2009. In just two years Pennington fought eight times and winning seven, with five of them victories coming by decision. She turned pro and won her first fight by TKO in 2012, but just three months later lost a split decision to Tori Adams before being signed by Invicta FC.
“Rocky” started off well at Invicta FC, gaining two straight victories over Sarah Moras and Raquel Pa’aluhi before losing her next two fights to Cat Zingano and Leslie Smith. What was next for Pennington was unclear, but she was adamant in her desires to one day conquer women’s MMA. The Ultimate Fighter was to be the next journey for Pennington.
“Rocky” defeated Tonya Evinger and Jessamyn Duke before damaging her hand. She still fought with her injury but lost a unanimous decision to former boxing champion Jessica Rakoczy. Despite being injured, the semi-final fight was made the fight of the season, so both “Rocky” and Rakoczy enjoyed the bonus given for their outstanding performance.
Pennington made her UFC debut in The Ultimate Fighter finale against teammate Roxanne Modafferi which she won by decision. She then lost by decision to Jessica Andrade. Pennington then choked out Ashlee Evans-Smith before losing to former champion Holly Holm by decision. But then something clicked for “Rocky“, she would go on the biggest win streak of her career which would lead to her title shot.
Pennington got a rematch with Jessica Andrade and she submitted her with ease, then followed that up with impressive decision victories over Bethe Correira and Elizabeth Phillips. But “Rocky” was not done there, she beat former champion Meisha Tate by decision and this really stamped her authority in the women’s bantamweight division and now she faces her toughest test yet.
After being away for a year and a half with injuries including a broken leg, Pennington will return to face the champion, Amanda Nunes. Both fighters are known for their boxing and Pennington can keep up with anyone on the feet earning her nickname “Rocky“. But don’t sleep on her ability to take the fight to the floor, she can tap out anyone on her day which makes her a formidable opponent for anyone and a very tough challenge for the Brazilian champion Nunes.