Raquel Pennington responds to Sean Strickland’s ‘disgusting’ comments: ‘The women are here. We’re here to stay’
Raquel Pennington did not agree with just about anything Sean Strickland said before UFC 297, but she did her best not to get caught up in all the drama.
In the main event of UFC 297, Strickland put his middleweight title on the line against Dricus du Plessis, with Pennington facing Mayra Bueno Silva for the vacant women’s bantamweight title in the co-main event. But on fight week, the two title fights quickly took a backseat to drama surrounding Strickland when the then-champion showed up to media day wearing a shirt that read, “A woman in every kitchen, a gun in every hand,” and delivered a number of homophobic comments.
Speaking with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, Pennington, who is openly gay and has a daughter with fellow UFC fighter Tecia Torres, discussed the intense fight week leading up to the event, saying that while Strickland’s comments were ugly, she tried to stay focused on herself and her goals that week.
“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.
“Dana [White] and Hunter [Campbell] came in before the press conference, and they asked me how I was doing with everything. 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.”
But while Strickland was happy to make comments to the media on such matters, that did not apply to personal interactions. Though the two were around each other a fair amount as the marquee fights for the pay-per-view, Pennington said Strickland never interacted with her personally.
“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.”
Ultimately, Pennington accomplished her goal, claiming the vacant title with a unanimous decision victory over Bueno Silva, while Strickland lost his belt by split decision. Following the event, White announced he would not take any action against Strickland for his inflammatory comments.
Again, while Pennington doesn’t care for Strickland’s views, she supports White’s stance on how to handle things.
“At the end of the day, that’s why the world is the way it is,” Pennington said. “People are constantly attacking different things. At the end of the day, you should be focused on just yourself, but it’s always going to be that way. I think it’s important for people to stay true to who they are and focus on the things they can control. You can’t control other people, and when you’re letting these other people impact your life, it’s only going to drag you down. It’s going to hold you back from what you want. …
“I don’t know. I respect Dana and Hunter for giving their concern. I also respect the fact that they give freedom of speech and they give their athletes the platform to be who they are and they just don’t care. A lot of people are constantly criticizing things and attacking Dana and saying different things but he does care about his athletes. He is there, and he did check in on us to make sure things were OK. He was like, ‘I have your back with this situation,’ too. But for me, it’s just one of those things where if I was took focus on it, it was only going to have a negative impact for me.”