UFC Champ Raquel Pennington Snaps Back at Sean Strickland’s Criticism of the LGBTQ+ Community

'Rocky' responded to Strickland's viral anti-LGBTQ rants ahead of UFC 297 and Pena's criticism of her performance following the event

Raquel Pennington
Courtesy of @RockyPMMA on X

Raquel Pennington does not agree with the vitriol that Sean Strickland often slings in his interviews and promotional appearances, but she refuses to let it affect her.  

In January, Pennington’s decade-long run inside the Octagon reached its culmination when she captured the vacant bantamweight world title with a dominant performance over Mayra Bueno Silva in the UFC 297 co-main event. Unfortunately, the women’s title clash and much of the event itself was overshadowed by Strickland who delivered another scathing anti-LGBTQ rant whilst wearing a t-shirt that read, “A woman in every kitchen, a gun in every hand” at a pre-fight press event.

It was by no means shocking for people who are familiar with Strickland’s outspoken style, but with Pennington and Silva — who are both openly gay — on the panel, it made for an especially awkward situation. 

Appearing on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, Raquel Pennington spoke about Strickland’s latest outburst and whether or not it affected her focus going into the biggest fight of her career. 

“At the end of the day, people are going to talk,” Pennington said. “They’re always going to have their own opinions. You’re allowed to have your own opinion, but at the end of the day, you’re not going to affect my life. What you do with your life doesn’t affect me. I just think it was disgusting on his part to even be concerned about us as human beings and our lifestyle, and just the comments he was making.

“At the end of the day, MMA has grown a ton. The women are here. We’re here to stay. The divisions are growing. You have tons of up-and-coming talent, so to criticize female athletes, I don’t agree with any of that. But I can’t control that, and that wasn’t my focus. My focus was to go out there and accomplish my goal.”

Asked if she and Strickland had any run-ins backstage over the weekend, ‘Rocky’ revealed that any time the two locked eyes, ‘Tarzan’ would cut and run in the other direction. 

“Every time he came around, we both turned the other direction,” Pennington said. “I stared at him a couple times, and he would just turn the other direction. He’s out there, he’s a great athlete, he’s selling his fights, running his mouth, he’s being — freedom of speech, doing whatever — but no, he didn’t say anything. Interesting character.”

Pennington did add that Dana White, who is the promotion’s biggest advocate for free speech, reached out to her during the festivities to make sure she was okay. 

“Dana [White] and Hunter [Campbell] came in before the press conference, and they asked me how I was doing with everything,’ she added. “It was just one of those things, you take it as a grain of salt, and you dish it out. It’s not going to affect what I’m here doing. At the end of the day, you want to talk, but we’re still your co-main event fight.”

Raquel Pennington Snaps Back at Julianna Pena

It’s fair to say that Raquel Pennington’s UFC title victory over Mayra Bueno Silva failed to set the MMA world on fire. The backlash following their lackluster five-round affair was so harsh that even Ryan Clark, co-host of ESPN’s DC&RC with Daniel Cormier, suggested scrapping the entire women’s bantamweight division in the wake of one of the worst championship bouts in promotional history. 

Julianna Pena, former bantamweight queen and likely the next opponent for Pennington inside the Octagon, was also critical of the contest, calling it a veritable snoozefest. 

Responding to Pena’s comments, ‘Rocky’ made it clear that she doesn’t care about the criticism. She’s just excited for the opportunity to finally fight ‘The Venezuelan Vixen’ more than 10 years removed from their first meeting on The Ultimate Fighter. 

“I’ve seen everything. I’ve seen all the criticism. I’ve seen these athletes talk. I pay attention to everything, but at the end of the day it’s just not who I am,” Pena said.

She continued, “I feel like Julianna has a very delusional version of our history together, but it makes it fun right? It’s building a storyline. The more she keeps talking, it’s selling things. Good for you, but at the end of the day, our fists will do the talking. It’s a fight I’ve been waiting for since 2013 when we were on The Ultimate Fighter. Our time has not aligned, but obviously, it’s coming now and I’m excited to finally punch her a** in the mouth.”

Despite the recent news of Kayla Harrison’s signing to the UFC, Pennington remains adamant that Julianna Pena is next in line and that their bout will likely go down sometime this summer. 


Published on January 31, 2024 at 9:40 pm
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