Raquel Pennington’s head coach Jason Kutz has spoken publicly for the first time about his controversial decision to not allow his fighter to withdraw from recent UFC 224 clash against Amanda Nunes.
Pennington (9-6) failed to capture the bantamweight title from Amanda Nunes (16-4) at this past Saturday night’s UFC 224 event, finding herself victim of a fifth-round TKO loss. Pennington was left a bloody mess by the end of the fight, and told her corner after round four that she no longer wanted to continue. Instead of stopping the fight, her coaches convinced her to continue. The days following the event, top UFC fighters and fans have hit out at the coaches decision.
Jason Kutz explained his decision during a recent appearance on The MMA Hour.
“What I’m going to say is, the way she said it, and more importantly, the look in her eye — that’s what I don’t think people understand,” Kutz said. “When you spend four hours a day doing what she does and doing what we do, I know her. I can read her face like a book. And I know that had she stopped [the fight] right then and there, and I’ve talked to her about this afterward — like, ‘Hey, in 10 years when you look back at this, I think you’d be kicking yourself in the pants had you not gone out there.’
“I knew it was going to take an extraordinary effort, because she had to stop Amanda. She had to do something huge, right? Something extraordinary. And if I didn’t think that Raquel could do something extraordinary, then hey, we would’ve went the other way with it. And the thing is, like I said, the mentality of her at that moment, I just felt if she could somehow flip it around and go out there and do something extraordinary, we got a chance. And you know what? She trained her ass off for a long time to get this title shot, and in the fifth round of the title fight, I know her leg hurts, but hey, I thought that she could go out there and go.”
Pennington revealed post-fight that early leg kicks from Amanda Nunes severely affected her performance for the remainder of the fight. Kutz says he didn’t know the extent of the injuries due to the way she was “masking it”.
“That goes back to her movement, her stance, this and that. She, to me, was not showing any signs of dysfunction of the limb,” Kutz said. “Yeah, it hurt, but as far as gimping and limping on it, I didn’t see it. If you look at the beginning of the round, she’s moving again and she was light on her feet. I was like, ‘Okay, okay.’ And then obviously things didn’t work out, the way it was, but at that moment what do I have? A half a second to give some advice there? That’s what I thought … and looking into her eyes and seeing it on her face, that’s what I felt needed to happen.
“And in my opinion, she did turn it around mentally, did a 180, and started the fifth round. I’m ridiculously proud of that. And I know a lot of people think I just threw her to the wolves there, but you know, it’s hard, and I know how tough she can be.”
Kutz did however acknowledge that he could have worded things differently.
“I would say the only thing that I could’ve said differently is maybe put it back into her court a little bit, and said like, ‘Do you really want me to stop this fight?’” Kutz said. “That’s hindsight, but again, because that throws it right back on her, and then she says yes, it’s over. But when she says, ‘I don’t want to do this, my leg hurts,’ my first initial reaction is, ‘Okay, yeah, your leg hurts, let’s power through this.’ Honestly, that’s what I was going with, and I didn’t want her to stop the fight because her leg hurt. And granted, we already discussed that I knew it hurt, but the nausea and this and that, I wasn’t really aware of at that moment. … I didn’t know that. I’ll speak to what I did know and I’ll stick with that.”
Some speculate that money could have been he reason that Kutz wanted his fighter to continue. Kutz refutes those speculators and says he does not regret his decision in the slightest.
“I don’t subscribe to that at all, especially with Raquel and now working with Tecia either,” Kutz said. “We’ve never discussed money. That’s not why she does it. She doesn’t fight for money. I don’t coach her for money. None of the other coaches coach her for money. If I were to make a decision based on money, whether on her getting more or myself getting more, if I make a decision like that based on money, dude, fire me. I quit. That’s not it at all. Zero chance money had anything to do with that.”
“I also think that it could be different had Raquel been a guy, and then [us] saying that,” Kutz said. “I think things would get looked at a little different. And I’ve had that conversation with Raquel and I know how tough she is, I’m not going to treat her any different than I would treat a guy. So, that’s where we’re at on that. I made the decision. I’m not regretting that decision at all. The coaching staff isn’t regretting it. But most importantly, Raquel is not regretting it. So there you have it. We’re going to move forward and learn and grow from this, and keep on keeping on.”
Fight fans, how do you feel about the situation? Do you see Kutz’ point of view? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.