Marion Reneau

Marion Reneau fully embraces underdog role at UFC on ESPN 11

A few hours removed from a successful weigh-in, UFC women’s bantamweight Marion Reneau spoke to MyMMANews about her upcoming fight with Raquel Pennington.

Marion Reneau was growing tired of the waiting game. The No. 10 ranked women’s bantamweight contender last competed more than a year ago against Yana Kunitskaya at UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. dos Santos, where she lost by way of unanimous decision.

Reneau was now on a two-fight skid, but she was not about to dwell on the shortcomings of her last few fights. Instead, Reneau assessed her performances, pointed out areas of improvement and implemented them in her training for her next appearance inside of the Octagon, which was supposed to be in Sept. 2019 against a fellow contender in Irene Aldana.

Unfortunately, Reneau and her team made the decision to withdraw from the Aldana fight due to an injury she sustained, so she would be on the sidelines for much longer than expected. The injury was dealt with, and Reneau was poised to come back in May 2020 against Ketlen Vieira at UFC 250, but the event ended up being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reneau was back to square one and found herself waiting for a fight again. Fortunately, she did not have to wait too long to get rescheduled to fight again as a bout with Raquel Pennington was offered for June and she jumped at the chance to get her new opponent. The change in an opponent was not a concern for Reneau and she was just happy to go out and show off the latest version of the “Belizean Bruiser”.

“You got to remember this is an MMA fight and one thing about working [is] to not forget about the other weapons in your toolbox,” Reneau told MyMMANews. “You can’t put a label on something and say this is what it is going to be like that because that’s what it was in the past. Anything can happen because its mixed martial arts.”

As she heads into the Pennington fight, Reneau finds herself in a position she has been in time and time again throughout her professional mixed martial arts career. While most fighters may not enjoy being the underdog in a fight, Reneau has no problem with it as she believes it motivates her to do better.

“I’m always the underdog and it doesn’t bother me. I prefer it that way, actually,” said Reneau. “I feel amazing. I haven’t looked at the odds, but typically because of my age, rank, et cetera, I am typically the underdog so I wouldn’t be surprised if I am.”

Reneau and Pennington may not share too many similarities when it comes to their fighting styles, but they do share at least one thing in common heading into their clash at UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. Volkov. Both women are hoping to redeem themselves after their most recent fights, which they admit did not go the way they wanted.

Pennington spoke about a fire being relit under her after her last performance, and Reneau is feeling the same way. Her fire, however, never stopped burning.

“It hasn’t left,” said Reneau. “When decisions don’t go my way, I get angry. I get a little pissed off. So, going into this next fight, that fire is there and it is burning. I have something to prove. I’m not just a one-dimensional fighter, so I’m going in there with a fire under my ass and I’m ready to do what I do best.”

Not only is Reneau hoping to snap her two-fight losing streak, but she is also looking to move up in the division by taking out someone else in the top ten. Pennington currently sits at number six, so a win over her would surely move Reneau closer to the top five.

With a number by her name, she realizes how valuable that is when it comes to getting the fights she needs in order to continue her climb to title contention, but she admits she has some concerns with how everything is worked out when rankings are done.

“Obviously it plays a part when you want a higher-ranked opponent, but let’s be honest. There are some people up in the rankings that I’m like, ‘Hmm. Really? You’re still there?’,” said Reneau. “Who’s doing the ranking system? Who’s controlling it? It does play a factor when you want fights and you want to work your way to the top, but I don’t harp on that number too much. I just try to focus on working my way to the top since that’s where everybody wants to go, so if I can’t be number ten and get a top ten opponent, I’m gonna go with it.”

Rankings have been notoriously controversial and Reneau points to one of the reasons why that is still the case.

“We have seen people getting repeat title shots and – come on. Do they really deserve it? I’m not gonna say any names, but I’ve seen it happen in multiple divisions, not just one. But because it still plays a factor, it does kind of matter to a certain point, but at the end of the day it’s important what we do inside of the cage to display everything we have. I’m always fighting. Whether it is to be recognized or to be seen, we’re always fighting no matter what.”

The women’s bantamweight division is at an exciting point right now with names like Irene Aldana and Julia Avila putting on excellent performances worthy of high praise and recognition. Like everyone else, Reneau is watching over all of them because she knows she may have to face some of these names one day, but her focus at this moment is on Pennington.

“I’m pretty much solely focused on the upcoming opponent. That’s it, but we’re not naïve to keep our eye out both my camp and I. We’re always watching and looking. I don’t train for a certain person. I just train just to train. It’s not like I train for a fight camp [because] I’m always training. We’re not looking past what we have in front of us right now because that’s our first and only mission right now.”

Reneau is obviously aiming for a win this Saturday night, but she has a little extra motivation coming into the fight. One of the very first fighters to express her excitement over the announcement of Fight Island, Reneau wants to win so that she may potentially get a quick turnaround and get on one of those cards set to take place on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.

“Lord willing. If everything goes as planned, whether there is a victory or not, I would like that opportunity,” said Reneau. “I think that’s history for all fighters. To get an opportunity to fight there, so yes. Absolutely. Sign me up. I do better when I fight back to back, so I don’t have to worry about cutting weight because believe it or not, it’s not easy for me to sit here and make weight. I’d rather just stay in shape and be like, ‘Hey, I’m ready to go. Let’s do this. Let’s run it again as soon as possible’. So, if I can get on Fight Island – and I’m not looking past my opponent right now – then, yeah eventually. That’s history and I want to be part of history.”

Someone else who is a part of history is the current champion of the women’s bantamweight and featherweight divisions, Amanda Nunes, who recently made headlines when she revealed she was pondering possible retirement from MMA. The news surprised many people, including UFC President Dana White, but Reneau was not one of them.

She understands Nunes’ position and gives her props for what she has done for this sport in general.

“As far as her retirement, in all honesty, I wouldn’t put it past her,” said Reneau. “If that’s something that she wants to do, then so be it. She’s about ready to have a child and there’s nothing like having a kid. You see in her stories and stuff; she really loves children. She loves her family and she loves being around her family. I’ve raised my son. He’s 18 years old. I’ve had that opportunity. I’ve done that and I know what that feels like and it’s an amazing experience. If she were to retire, I wouldn’t put it past her, but do I want her to retire anytime soon? No, not yet.

“She has accomplished a lot in the division [and] that’s something that she should be very proud of. Her next journey in life is raising a child and that’s gonna be an amazing journey. I cannot even emphasize that enough. It’s going to be a nonstop, up and down roller coaster.”

One of the talking points that has risen due to Nunes’ retirement announcement is that it makes perfect sense since she has essentially cleared out her divisions at both 135 and 145 pounds. Reneau does not buy that and wants those people to know that the bantamweight division is the furthest from being cleared out.

“They’re stupid. They need to stop. They need to get off the couch and stop being keyboard warriors and be quiet. It is not cleared out. There’s plenty of top females in that division still left.”

Even if she does not get her chance against Nunes, Reneau has plenty to be proud of in her career. On the eve of her 43rd birthday, she keeps pushing forward and has no plans on stopping anytime soon.

“I am so proud to be where I am at right now and still being able to hang with the girls in the top ranks of the division in the world,” said Reneau. “I’m proud of that. There’s not a lot of people who can do that and, like I said before, I like to make history. I like to change the game and I’m letting everybody know right now, age doesn’t matter. I’m like fine wine. I only get better with age.”

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