DeAnna Bennett (Esther Lin/Invicta FC)

Vitamin D: DeAnna Bennett’s Ultimate Fighter 26 Blog, Week 9

So we’ve reached the second round of the competition. Before we started that round, UFC President Dana White took us out on a night-time yacht expedition around Lake Las Vegas. It was a good break from the competition. We donned some fancy apparel and got to be classy for a night.

It was great to get out and hang out with our coaches and teams outside the gym. Shana Dobson had a stellar toast followed by a fantastic cheers by Ariel Beck to the UFC women’s flyweight division. Ariel always had the best cheers; in fact, every night we took a shot of apple cider vinegar together and she had many of cheers for those shots, too. It was always an excellent way to end the night.

At one point during the night, Barb Honchak grabbed me and we went to the front of the boat. I went and grabbed Frankie Perez, one of the assistant coaches and Ariel to join us. It was a beautiful night, and it was great to get away from the group and relax on the water with some good people. We had some great conversations about life and following your dreams. It was a great time.


Little did we know, there was some drama going down with the rest of the people on the other end of the ship. Apparently, some of the ladies on the other team said some stuff to Eddie Alvarez and were giving him a hard time. Honestly, I was not there, so I don’t know what was said specifically, but I chalked it up to the drama that happened between Lauren Murphy and him. It was really unfortunate, because the remaining members of Team Alvarez — the ones he dealt with every day and took time away from his family to train and help through this process — loved him and really appreciated him as a coach and a person. The other team were basing their opinion of him off of brief interactions and with the very biased rumblings of our former teammate, and I hated that they cornered him on the boat like that. I wish I had been there to support our fearless leader, because he didn’t deserve all that hate.

On to the first fight!

Up first, we had Roxanne Modafferi against Emily Whitmire. Roxy was the first fight of the competition, whereas Emily was the last. It was an intriguing match-up. Roxy is the vet building off her second surge of fighting success, whereas Emily is a spitfire up-and-comer.

Weigh-ins went off without a hitch and even got a little flashy, with Roxy donning a fancy dress and makeup. She looked great.

Both ladies entered the cage excited for their second fight in the tournament. They fought back and forth, and they ended up on the ground where Roxy got mount and began raining down elbows. Emily stopped defending herself and turtled up. With one second left in the round, the ref stopped the fight. Even though it was so close to the end of the round, she wasn’t fighting back and it was a good stoppage. It sucks to see someone go out like that, but it was the right call.

So, on to the final round in the house goes Roxy. Next up, the fight to see who faces her: me or Sijara “Sarj” Eubanks.

So, Sarj and I were roommates (go Rosé room!), teammates and friends. We knew once we both won that we would be facing each other. They asked me a couple times if I hoped she would lose her first fight so we didn’t have to face each other. In all honesty, I did not want to have to fight my friend, but I also wanted her to go as far as she possibly could. So of course I wanted her to win her first fight, and she did. They also kept asking if it was awkward fighting a teammate, and the answer to that is also no. In fact, with my nerdiness, I modified a Bane quote to describe it: “Everyone doesn’t get it, they merely adopted the awkward, I was born into it. And being the awkward person I am, this was not awkward, just part of the game.”

If you’ve been watching the show, you know Sarj had a tough time making the weight the first time around, but in the end, she made weight. This was a concern of some people going into this next round, but, as you hear me say, I was very confident she would make it. And even though she was my opponent, I would help her get there. In fact, as a team we all had her back. Even though this was a competition, we all were there for a reason and didn’t wish any ill will or malice toward the other competitors. It’s the thing I didn’t like about the corporate business world; I wouldn’t hope someone else fails so I could succeed. It’s a competition, I know, but I prefer to be a positive force in the universe.

Sarj and I actually cut weight in the Rosé room together. You can see her bundled up in her sleeping bag, cutting, while I switched into the tub. I got on weight first and went to the gym with the team, while Sarj stayed behind and kept cutting, though she was doing fairly well. Everyone showed up and weigh-ins started, but when she got on the scale, Sarj was still over.

There was a little pandemonium at this point, and Sarj went to the locker room. Lauren, seeing her over, went straight into the sauna to cut weight. Unbeknownst to us, she had been hoping for this and had already been cutting weight. If you’ve ever cut weight and been at it for a while and still been over, it is not just physically taxing, it’s emotionally taxing. Sarj was feeling it. Shana and Christina Marks went into the locker room and told her Lauren was cutting and would not let her give up. I would gladly have gotten in the sauna with her and cut again, but my corner told me to focus on my rehydration.

Sarj got into the sauna and came face to face with Lauren in there. Sarj told her to leave and she would not. She even told Sarj, “This is my opportunity.” I liked Lauren, I really did, but hearing this really struck a chord with me. No, it wasn’t her opportunity; it was Sarj’s. Sarj won her first fight and earned that spot, and she had an hour to get on weight. Telling her it was “her” opportunity was a verbal slap in the face and I do not agree with that one bit, but honestly it gave Sarj the energy to cut the last bit of weight and make it to 126 pounds, so it turned the situation into a positive. Boom, fight was on!

I spent the morning of the fight talking to my father. This experience was something I would love to share with him, and it killed me that he will never be able to watch the show or see how far I’ve come. Of course he is always with me in spirit, but I really needed to talk to him about how I was feeling before the biggest fight of my life. No matter the outcome, I know he’d be proud of me, though. We got to the gym. Warming up, I felt great. Sarj was my friend, and to honor her as that and as a fighter, I planned on bringing her the best fight I could. Not holding back anything. Walking out, I had my game face on, but of course when I saw my team I had to blow them a kiss. Why? Because that’s me — it’s what I do.

Once the fight started, I had my game face on and I was there for business. Things were going well, and I could hear my corners clearly and I felt like it was even. Things were going my way… and then I came to on the cage canvas and I knew something bad had happened.

Honestly, it was devastating. I put my heart and soul out there and I got caught. That was one hell of a kick. I got up and gave my friend a hug. I chose to be happy for my friend, even though I was sad for myself. I did go to the locker room and ugly cry. Sorry for anyone who had to see it, because it was not pretty. But honestly, you have to feel those emotions but not dwell on them. Get it out that night and get back to work the next day.

In fact, we didn’t have practice the next day, but I got up and went for my morning run right away. One well-placed kick and quick nap in front of everyone isn’t going to stop me from reaching my goals. I mean, I did have a date with a bottle of Malbec and that roast beef to console me, but hey, they’re good listeners. And damn it, I earned it!

Next up is the fabulous Barb against Rachael Ostovich-Berdon and then Nicco Montano and Montana Stewart. Stay tuned for next week. Free hugs, good games, ungraceful lap dances and awkward face pats all around. Thank you everyone for the support; it truly means the world to me.