After Felice Herrig defeated Justine Kish at UFC Fight Night 112 in Oklahoma City, she was backstage with the media and showed plenty of emotion when talking about the UFC promoting her. Asked why she believes the UFC doesn’t promote her enough, Herrig told reporters that she feels that she’s not young and beautiful enough for their liking.
First, let’s stop right there. Every female fighter who steps into the cage, whether it be in the UFC or elsewhere, is beautiful just for doing what they do. In a time when social media and trolls run the world, what some see as beauty, others will see as ugly. The Earth will keep spinning, regardless. Furthermore, let’s talk about how women fighters, for some reason, have to feel worried about their physical looks while putting themselves in a sport where they’re paid — not all that great, by the way — to get punched in the face. Sure, physical features matter when it comes to a marketing mindset and how the UFC may want to promote to a certain crowd, but what are we really discussing here?
In what is now her third win in a row, Herrig has become a stronger version of herself since taking time away from the sport. The payoff has been massive. Since her return, Herrig has stopped the hype trains of Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso and now Kish, who was previously undefeated. Herrig won’t sit outside of the top 10 for much longer. She deserves a spot somewhere between Nos. 5 and 10 in the strawweight division. Herrig looks more alive than ever. She’s showcasing all of her true talent, and she’s knocking off all the young, up-and-coming women the UFC is throwing at her.
Herrig won’t allow herself to be a stepping stone for the rise of others. The former The Ultimate Fighter 20 competitor has seen it all and been through it all, but most importantly, she does what she wants for herself. Young and beautiful doesn’t need to define her, because Crystal Lake, Ill., couldn’t be more proud to have her as a representative.
One conversation with her coach, Jeff Curran, or any of her teammates at Team Curran, and it’s easy to see why Herrig is so beloved. She’s full of energy, full of fun, and hard-working like no other. The idea that she’s not young and beautiful enough is just laughable and extremely disappointing in 2017.
So, what’s next?
Herrig can look in the mirror, and if she doesn’t see the beauty that all of her fans see, then maybe she’ll see the progress she’s made as someone who has climbed above personal struggles and is now on a three-fight winning streak. To make it all worth it, let’s get Herrig back in there against the last woman to defeat her, the “young and beautiful” Paige VanZant. Herrig discussed wanting to rematch PVZ, because “12 Gauge” didn’t get to see the real Herrig in the first fight and “Lil Bulldog” would like to rectify this.
Until the matchmakers give Herrig another fight, let the message stand. Being young and beautiful only lasts for so long. What’s more important to those around the sport is when a fighter, male or female, young or old, can bounce back from adversity and redefine their career on their own terms. It’s time for Herrig to continue her rise in the division.
She may not think she fits the “young and beautiful” label the UFC is looking to promote, but most fans would call her foolish for doubting herself. In 2017, we shouldn’t overlook a career that has a great comeback story for a fighter who has given us her all. Beauty and sex sells. That’s no secret. However, Herrig’s talent and recent showcases in the cage prove much more than any makeup or camera lens can show.