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Saturday, 10/12/2013, 12:53 pm

EXCLUSIVE | TUF 18’s Raquel Pennington’s Official Episode 6 Blog For BJPENN.COM

So right after the fight between Louis and Davey the adrenaline started to pump, even though Team Rousey gained control I had a gut feeling the next pick would be myself vs. either Jessamyn or Peggy.

I had high hopes for the fight with Jessamyn due to the fact that we were suppose to meet in the cage prior to TUF 18, but the stars never aligned.

When the fight announcement was made and it turned out to be the match up that I hoped for, it was game on from there! My coaching staff was very happy with the match up and was determined to prepare me for a war. Our game plan from the beginning was to showcase my stand up game and prevent Jessamyn from taking the fight to the ground.

The anticipation of not knowing when I would be chosen to fight kept me very motivated and my training intense. Once the fight was decided I had 24 hours to make-weight and mentally prepare. After weigh-ins were finished I then had 24 hours for the fight. It’s a real rush having to remain ready at all times for when your name is called and to be ready to rock and roll!

Leading up to the fight Team Tate somewhat had an idea of whom each fighter wanted to fight so we were able to focus more on certain aspects of the game. I worked a lot of stand up as far as Muay Thai and boxing. I had the honor of working with coach Mel, who taught a lot like my coach back home, so it helped to sync me into my zone, have comfort and find all my confidence.

We also worked plenty of the ground game as well as wrestling. Cardio felt amazing as well as my strength and conditioning so going into the fight I had no concerns. I felt more than ready for what I was about to face and I felt I had a great team and coaching staff behind me that encouraged me to believe in myself the same way my family would in any other fight!

Back at the house, after the fight announcement, I was going to take a nap when I walked in and my team/room mates were talking and Julianna was playing with her make up. Somehow Sarah volunteered me to get a makeover and for some reason I went along with it. It’s very clear I am not the girly type and I’m not so sure it was such a smart move to put those things that felt like stilts on. Would have been terrible for Dana White to get a call that a girl has been knocked out of the tournament due to playing dress up and she broke her ankle because she can’t walk in heels ha ha! At the same time it was nice to have some good laughs and just be goofy with one another, another mental break beside the stress of trying to walk along side the pool like a linebacker in heels

The day of weight cut!!! Ugh the worst part of the sport I would have to say. We had the opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy a pool party with the UFC fights and all the awesome Hooters girls, which was great for new company! Given any other fight camp I would never go to a pool party but this was a great mental break to relax from the idea of fighting and just enjoy myself and good company.

Everyone had a great time eating what looked to be delicious food and drinks (even though I was stuck with fruit and water), letting loose and just really getting to enjoy each other’s company outside of the gym and the TUF house. I had fun bonding more with my coaches, throwing Miesha in the pool then Cody throwing me in the pool. It was a good time until we got home.

I was exhausted and a few people were not! I don’t mind people having a good time and enjoying themselves but we have a job to focus on and I needed rest and Anthony was just on another kick, screaming, making weird noises that echoed throughout the house and then throwing poker chips at my bedroom door. It became more than irritating. All I wanted was a little respect and a good nights rest but it took the arguing, him climbing in my bed and just all the crazy actions before that could happen. I was ready to meet him in the octagon right then and there!

Trying to live with an opponent is a different experience. It was weird to build a friendship and hang out all the time then go into the mode of looking at one another across the room while eating dinner and saying ‘I’ll see you in the cage tomorrow!’ I had to distance myself so that way I wouldn’t have respect for a friend, but see her as an opponent who is trying to take control of my dream.

At weigh-ins we both did our jobs, weighed in at 135lbs exact, both looking very mean and lean.

Starring into her eyes I visualized my game plan and many possible situations that could happen, but no matter what situation came about at the end of the fight my hand would be raised. The morning of the fight I got emotional, missing my family and wishing they could be there, but it just gave me more motivation to make them proud.

At the gym we started to warm up and I felt completely in sync, I was very excited for the fight.

Stepping into the cage I just remembered what has got me this far, what I dream of in the future and that I wasn’t going to let anything stand in the way.

First round I spent as more of a feeling out process while Jessamyn was being a lot more active throwing punches and kicks. We clinched and she wrapped her arm around my head and neck, it was nothing I was worried about, but that’s the moment that flipped my switch to fight!

From that point it became a stand up war! I broke my hand in the first round (Surprise! I kept the broken hand a secret, so I could stay in the tournament) and that’s when I truly discovered my power behind my punches and the heart it was going to take to push through and win the fight. After the first round I figured she had won and I needed to pick it up in round two and push forward.

Second round again, was so back and forth, big shots being landed on both sides, cardio felt amazing, arms felt like heavy logs but every time I landed a shot it just felt so solid and I felt like I started to pick her apart second by second.

Pain shooting up my arm over and over, I had to block it out and keep going. We finished both rounds last few seconds strong. I knew that a third round was coming but that was ok because isn’t that what we train to fight anyways?

Third round once again toe to toe, big shots being landed on both ends but I knew I wouldn’t stop until the round was mine. For only about 30 people being in the gym it felt like we were in an arena of thousands. It was so loud it was hard to hear the coaches and the time remaining. Kicks, shins hitting and making the sounds of 2 2×4’s smacking together, the intense punches, the knees, and the cut at the end. We just stood and banged for 15 minutes and I faced all the fears I was always worried about in a fight.

If I had a gas tank to last, how would I react if a got cut, how I could handle a broken bone and pushing through finishing a fight. At that moment I felt like a true champion to myself and I was proud. I was confident I had the win and gained control back for Team Tate!

When my hand was raised it was a sense of relief that I made it past another stage, now to begin preparing again and the new challenge was working through the injuries and all the soreness! Not only to prepare myself, but Josh Hill for his upcoming fight against Michael Wooten on the next episode of season 18 of The Ultimate fighter!

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