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Friday, 12/06/2013, 08:19 am

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EXCLUSIVE (Part 2) | Raquel Pennington on Ronda Rousey: “I Think She’s a Great Person”

UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey has seemed to have lost some fans following her coaching stint on ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’  She lost to Miesha Tate in a recent fan-based vote for the cover of the UFC’s new video game; and following interviews during and after The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale, many fans complained about Rousey’s lack of professionalism.  But if you ask Raquel Pennington, one of the leading members of Miesha Tate’s team on ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ Rousey is a great person and a great coach.

 

By Christopher Murphy @MurphMMA

It’s a sentiment UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey has said from the very beginning of her coaching stint on ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ the UFC’s hit reality-television show:  her public persona is not who she is.

That mentality may keep Rousey indifferent toward the recent shift in the MMA community’s stance toward the first-ever female champion in the UFC.  Once touted as the face of women’s MMA, Rousey has recently fallen from the grace of fans.  She lost a recent head-to-head vote against rival TUF coach Miesha Tate for a shot at the cover of the UFC’s next video game; her time coaching on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ earned her a reputation as hot-headed; and in recent interviews during and after the season’s live finale, Rousey was seen by many to come off as unprofessional.

But there are still those who understand that what they see on television is not the whole picture.  TUF competitor Raquel Pennington, who competed on the team of Rousey’s rival Miesha Tate, said she has nothing but respect for Rousey.

I mean, as far as it comes with Ronda, I think she’s a good person,” Pennington said in a recent interview with BJPENN.COM’s Late Night Cageside Radio.  “Like I said, I think a lot of people can judge really easy, and as far as her being a coach, I think she was a great coach.  She was emotionally invested; and her being an athlete, she knows exactly the emotions that you go through.  I mean the same thing when it comes to Miesha, she knows the emotions you go through.  She said it in one of her situations where she’s just like, ‘You know, I’m an athlete not a coach, so this is a process for me too.’  Everybody’s not going to be perfect.  It’s a lot easier for everybody to kind of judge.

As far as I’ve seen of Ronda, she has her competitive mentality of course and everything, but overall as a person, I think she’s a great person, and I think she’s a great athlete.  I don’t think she’s made out to be what she is.  A lot of people call her a cry-baby and this, that and the other, but I think it’s pretty cool that she’s emotionally invested in her athletes.

As far as Rousey’s recent interviews, Pennington had respect for Rousey’s apparent unwillingness to participate.  At the very start of the interview that followed the live finale, Rousey stated that she would rather be spending time with her fighters who just lost – a sentiment that she subsequently displayed with short answers and body language than many people interpreted as unprofessional and distasteful.

But for Pennington, and most likely for Rousey’s fighters, it showed how passionate a coach the women’s champion is.

I mean, like I said, it’s so much easier for people to try and criticize,” Pennington stated about the public response to Rousey’s interview.  “I think it’s awesome that Ronda wanted to go back there and talk instead of doing what she had to do and sit there and talk about her upcoming fight or, you know, the fights that went on.  She wanted to go back there.  She knows the emotions and the comfort that people may need.  Even when she did go in the back, I was still back there.  I think it’s great of her like to just sit there and have the opportunity to do that.

For her own part, Raquel Pennington defeated Roxanne Modafferi at The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale on Saturday.  It was the end of a rather difficult chapter in Pennington’s career that saw three fights on the show and one fight in the UFC: a six-month period that saw a lot of emotional and physical pain.  But it was worth it, says Pennington, who is looking forward to continuing to climb the UFC’s rankings.

You know, I want to do whatever it’s going to take one day to finally reach the goal of being a world champion,” she said of her goals.  “It’s going to take a lot of hard work, and I have great opponents that stand in front of me.  As far as… my career, every opponent that’s ever been offered to me, even if it’s on short notice, I’ve always taken the fight.  This is what we train for, and this is what we do.  Whether I win or lose, it just always gives me something to look forward to and learn from, progress from.

And despite her respect for both coaches, Tate and Rousey, Pennington says she would love the chance to fight both women in the UFC one day.

Yeah, I mean with the coaches and everything, I remember when we went into the semifinal picks,” Pennington recounted, “Dana [White] called us into the office and he kind of left the question – I knew he was talking about as far as on the show – but he put it as, ‘OK, which girl would you want to fight?’ and I pointed at Ronda and Miesha.  I mean it is true: they’re our coaches, but they are in our weight division and they are potential opponents.  Like I said, it doesn’t change the fact that we’re friends on the outside and we all know each other, and then it’s business on the inside.  One day I do hope to face both of them.

That scene didn’t air on ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ but Pennington says the sentiment holds true.

<“No, they didn’t end up showing it, but yeah, I pointed to both of them, and Ronda kind of gave me that look like, ‘OK,’ and Miesha kind of punched me in the side, and Dana was like, ‘Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!’  The other night, after the fight, when I did my interview and stuff, they kind of just asked.  Even with Cat Zingano, looking to try and revenge that loss and just kind of move my way up.  As far as the 135-pound division, it’s still growing in the UFC, so it’s just kind of like the opponents here and there that are really well known and all of us that just came out of the house that are becoming recognized and everything.  Yeah, I don’t have a problem with anybody.

 

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