Fox producers and the Ultimate Fighting Championship work hard to isolate the contestants on The Ultimate Fighter reality series from the real world during the shooting of the show, but every now and then real life finds its way into production.
Popular Australian fighter and Team Melendez member Bec Rawlings hoped that her ailing stepfather, suffering from a deteriorating physical condition, would be able to cling to life long enough to witness her realize her dream of fighting in the UFC. Unfortunately, he did not.
UFC president Dana White called Rawlings into his office to break the news to her that her stepfather had passed away.
“He has Parkinson’s and he was on his last days,” said an emotional Rawlings. “It hurts. I was just hoping that he could hold on a little longer so he could finally see my UFC debut because that’s what he wanted.”
“My mom just had a feeling that he wouldn’t last, and I guess she was right,” she added. “I’m going to try to win this whole thing for him and my family. Hopefully I can pull it off.”
The Fight: Jessica Penne vs. Lisa Ellis
The two had fought before. Penne defeated Ellis by technical knockout in the third round of Invicta FC 1 in April 2012. It was the last time Ellis had fought, and her return to fighting after entering motherhood was an opportunity to avenge the previous bloody loss.
Penne was seeded at no. 4 while Ellis was ranked at no. 13 among the sixteen fighters in the competition. Penne worked to establish her jab in the early going of the opening round. It didn’t take Ellis long to try and get the fight to the ground. She scored a takedown on her first attempt, but Penne immediately bounced back to her feet and delivered knees to the body and legs of Ellis along the cage.
While working for a second takedown, Ellis gave up top position to Penne on the way to the canvas. Ellis reversed the position, but Penne transitioned and took her back. Ellis tried to escape the position, but Penne drug her back to the canvas and began landing punches. The strikes opened up the opportunity for Penne to apply a rear-naked choke. Ellis was forced to tap out.
“I feel amazing,” said Penne following the win. “There’s a lot of ups and downs that go on before a fight, and it’s just always a good feeling to get in there. All of that goes away and luckily today I came out with a victory. I’m proud of myself.”
“I just thank everybody for all of their support. But I’ll be fine. This is just a small part of my life. I mean it’s a big part, but it’s also a small part,” said a tearful Ellis after the loss. “I have so much to be thankful for, so.”
The submission win kept matchmaking control with Team Pettis, and the lightweight champion picked the overall no. 1 seed, Jessica Penne, to fight next. She’ll face no. 16 seed Angela Hill from Team Melendez.