DETROIT, Mich. — Raquel Pennington is looking to pick up right where she left off after suffering a severe leg injury this past October.
The women’s bantamweight contender was in attendance at media day alongside fiancee Tecia Torres, who fights Michelle Waterson in a strawweight bout at UFC 218 on Saturday at the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Mich.
Pennington looked to be in good shape a little over a month after a harrowing ATV accident that left her with damage to her foot, calf, and knee. At the time, Pennington said she was fortunate to avoid any major permanent injury and projected to return within four months.
On Wednesday, she provided an optimistic update to MMA Fighting as to when she expects to return to the Octagon.
“I’m hoping — I wish it was tomorrow — I’m hoping that maybe around May,” said Pennington. “It feels like forever.
“It’s healing really well,” she added. “I’m in physical therapy an hour every single day, five days a week, and we’re just working at it, we’re trying to get the feeling back into the back of the leg. The bone is almost healed, so that’s a good thing. The big part is just waiting on the muscles.”
At the moment, Pennington’s training is restricted to regaining her strength and making sure she’s physically comfortable, not preparing her for any upcoming fights.
“No, I can’t do anything so I finally just got released to start doing the stationary bike and elliptical, if they don’t hurt, then slowly starting trying to introduce certain exercises to get the calf moving because my calf was completely smashed,” said Pennington. “So that’s kind of where I’m at.”
Prior to being sent into this recovery period, Pennington had emerged as a candidate to challenge women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. Pennington won a clear-cut unanimous decision over Miesha Tate last November, but her march to the title came to a screeching halt when she had to undergo a trio of surgeries to her shoulder, wrist, and mouth. At the time of her ATV accident, it was reported that Nunes and Pennington had verbally agreed to fight at UFC 219 on Dec. 30.
Nunes fought just once in 2017, defeating Valentina Shevchenko by five-round split decision, and Pennington was presumed to be next in line. The champion’s team previously told MMA Fighting’s Guilherme Cruz that they see Pennington as the rightful No. 1 contender and as far as “Rocky” knows, that hasn’t changed.
“It’s pretty much in the talks that when I’m able to return that we will definitely fight each other, so I’m excited about that,” said Pennington. “It lifted my spirits a little bit. I obviously feel like I’m the No. 1 contender for that and I think Amanda feels the same way. I know that Tecia talks to them, they’re her friends, I think we’ve all built our own relationship throughout the sport fighting together.
“I have not personally talked to Amanda, but Tecia talked to them, they reached out to her, asked if I was doing okay, what happened, stuff like that, and just showed some concern.”