During an appearance Monday on “The MMA Hour,” Pennington said she is “proud” of her coaches for encouraging her to answer the bell for the fifth round of that fight, even after she had directly told them she “wanted to be done.”
“I know a lot of people are going against what they said and thinking all this different stuff, and it’s easy to judge, but you never know what’s happening in that moment,” Pennington said.
“At the end of the day, my coaches know me best and they know my toughness. They know what I can handle, and I trust my coaches with everything that I have, that they wouldn’t put me in a situation I can’t handle.”
The controversy erupted Saturday when Pennington, 29, turned to her team and said she was “done.” She had clearly lost the first four rounds of the title fight to Nunes, and it appeared she might have broken her nose.
One of her coaches, who has been identified by multiple media outlets as Jason Kutz, told Pennington to “change your mindset” and “throw everything we got.” Pennington ultimately answered the bell for the final round and lost via TKO two minutes later.
At a postfight news conference, Nunes suggested Pennington’s corner had “failed” her by sending her out for the final round.
Pennington said her nose is not broken, but she is seeking medical attention for her left leg. Pennington broke the leg in an ATV accident last year, and she said she felt as if Nunes rebroke it with a kick early in the fight.
Although the pain was excruciating, Pennington said she’s happy she finished the fight.
“I agreed with my coaches as soon as the fight was done. I was agreed with them in that moment,” Pennington said. “Because at the end of the day, the ball was still in my court. I could have easily waved off the fight. I could have bent down and tapped out.
“I chose not to tap out and pull my head out of my ass, basically, and not give up on myself. Because at the end of the day, when you give up, that’s a whole different ballgame.”
For Pennington (9-6), UFC 224 marked her first shot at a UFC championship. Prior to Saturday, she had not fought since November 2016 due to injuries.