The dictionary defines the word perseverance as “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” However, at UFC on Fox 20 in Chicago, Felice Herrig defined perseverance better than any dictionary or person ever could.
Herrig returned to the Octagon in her hometown to take on 25-year old Kailin Curran after a 462-day layoff. Herrig, a true veteran, took the time off after suffering a loss to rising strawweight star Paige VanZant and battling issues of anxiety and depression outside of the sport.
In battles with quite possibly her toughest opponent ever, sleepless nights, Herrig believed that she may have been losing her drive for the sport. In October, she came out about her battles with the sleepless nights, depression and anxiety not only due to the loss against VanZant, but because Herrig never knew when to stop or say no.
Herrig, a fighter who would travel all over the world to fight as well as never declining any promotional scheduling and always interacting with her fans — and all of this on top of preparing her body physically and mentally — not only needed the time off, she deserved it.
With the UFC coming to Chicago, it seemed only fitting that this was the time and place for Herrig’s return. Herrig stepped into the Octagon on a different emotional ride when she fought Curran, the first Hawaiian female fighter to compete in the UFC.
Herrig stepped into the Octagon with the hometown behind her as she awaited her newest opponent. Upon her entrance, Herrig already won her biggest fight. Her anxiety and depression had been defeated. A rejuvenated, energized and victorious Herrig looked across the Octagon and saw the only opponent she still needed to defeat. The fight was on.
In a twist of irony, Herrig’s fight against Curran was much shorter than her fight against her demons outside of the cage. Within the first two minutes of the first round, Herrig was able to take the back of Curran and submit her with a rear-naked choke. It was a triumphant return for Herrig.
A rear-naked choke may also be ironic to how Herrig secured the victory, as not only did she choke out her opponent but, in a figurative sense, she choked out her demons during her time off.
During her post-fight Octagon interview with Joe Rogan, Herrig admitted that getting control of her anxiety was a big reason why she was able to come out victorious against Curran. She went on to say not only did she feel better both inside and outside the Octagon, but she declared herself back.
Just like her nickname, “Lil’ Bulldog,” Herrig never gave up her fight inside or outside the Octagon, and she made it known that she is back. She submitted her opponent and knocked out her demons. Now, the strawweight division should be put on notice. “Lil’ Bulldog” is ready to fight.