UFC Chicago: Welcome Back Felice Herrig

It had been 15 months since Felice Herrig had last fought in the octagon and some UFC fans and critics may have wondered if she had anything left. It turns out, the “Lil’ Bulldog” had more bite and fight left in her than folks realized.

Herrig opened the main card of last night’s UFC on Fox: Holm vs. Shevchenko (UFC on Fox 20) where she submitted Hawaiian sensation Kailin Curran two minutes into the first round in front of the Chicago crowd. After the fight she celebrated with her team and the audience.

This win brought Herrig’s UFC record to 2-1 – she submitted fellow “The Ultimate Fighter 20 alumna” Lisa Ellis in December 2014 during the “TUF 20” finale in her official octagon debut, then dropped a decision to Paige VanZant four months later.

The victory was one of Herrig’s most impressive performances so much that it earned her a $50,000 “Performance of the Night” bonus – as well as her fastest finish. In 2011, she finished Andrea Miller in three minutes via TKO at Chicago Cagefighting Championship 3.

But Herrig’s first-round submission over Curran wasn’t just impressive from a physical or a fighter’s standpoint. During her time away from the UFC, Herrig was fighting a battle against the person who could be considered her toughest opponent – herself.

During the UFC on Fox 20 post-fight press conference, Herrig said during her fight with VanZant, her “body went numb” – the first time that had happened to her in a fight. This led her to take some off from professional competition, though she was still training.

Herrig explained that her body had been “burned out” from fighting at the time. The Lil’ Bulldog (11-6 overall) is one of the more prolific journey-women in mixed martial arts. Prior to coming to the UFC she fought in Bellator, XFC and Invicta Fighting Championships. She was also a professional kickboxer and has won several professional and amateur championships.

During her time away, Herrig said she worked on the things she had “been stubborn to do before,” such as getting her anxiety under control. It paid off as Herrig looked relaxed and comfortable in the Curran fight.

MMA is a sport where the majority of the focus is on a fighter’s physical traits and abilities they bring to the cage or the ring and sometimes the mental part gets overlooked. While a fighter’s physical attributes certainly play a role in the fight, if they are not 100 percent focused mentally, they could a lose their next fight before it starts.

Sometimes it’s a good thing to take a step back and reevaluate ourselves and address any mental hurdles we’re facing.

As for her future, Herrig said she wants to enjoy this win – as she should – before her next challenge. The Lil’ Bulldog has asserted her place in the UFC women’s strawweight and she has several potential matchups waiting in the wings – maybe a fight with fellow Bellator alumna Jessica Aguilar? Or how about a rematch with Tecia Torres. Herrig dropped a decision to Torres at Invicta FC 7 before they signed with the UFC.

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