Raquel Pennington is finally a world champion. “Rocky” took the long road to glory, a 12-year journey that culminated at UFC 297 in Toronto on Saturday.
Pennington and Mayra Bueno Silva clashed to find an heir to the UFC women’s bantamweight throne following Amanda Nunes’ retirement. Nunes and Pennington’s wife, Tecia Torres, embraced cage-side as Pennington put the final touches on a winning effort. It was a sweet moment considering Nunes battered and broke Pennington in the latter’s first title shot in 2018.
“It’s been a long five years,” Pennington said during her post-fight interview. “I’ve climbed mountains to get back here. For everybody who is chasing a dream and you have people telling you can’t do it or you’re not good enough, stay believing because that’s exactly what I did.”
Pennington chipped away at the less experienced Bueno Silva over 25 minutes. It wasn’t pretty or exciting but effective enough to claim the UFC women’s bantamweight title. Pennigton stayed calm through her opponent’s early submission threats and rocked her in Round 2. The fight swung further in Pennington’s favor as time went on and fatigue set in for Bueno Silva. The outcome was a unanimous decision for Pennington (49-46, 49-46, 49-45) with multiple 10-8 scorecards.
Pennington’s (16-8) late career resurgence is admirable. She is on a career-best six-fight winning streak at age 35. Pennington has often been dismissed as an elite talent but she never shied from tough fights. Pennington has stood across the cage from future, former and current UFC champions. Nunes, Holly Holm (twice), Miesha Tate, Germaine de Randamie and Jessica Andrade (twice) are among the premier names that she has fought.
Looking ahead, Pennington will most likely defend her UFC women’s bantamweight title against former champion Julianna Pena. Pena was in attendance for UFC 297. It’s a fight Pennington claims is 10 years in the making.