UFC 297 featured former middleweight champ Strickland against Dricus Du Plessis in the main event, while Pennington and Mayra Bueno Silva co-headlined the card with the vacant women’s bantamweight title on the line. Known for voicing his unfiltered opinions on controversial topics, Strickland was true to brand in the leadup to the card in Toronto.
“Tarzan” showed up to media day wearing a T-shirt that read “A woman in every kitchen, a gun in every hand” and went on a rant when a reporter asked him if he still stood by his previous comments on LGBTQ+ topics. Pennington, who is gay and has a daughter with fellow UFC fighter Tecia Torres, certainly didn’t agree with Strickland but tried her best to stay focused on her fight.
“At the end of the day, people are going to talk,” Pennington said on The MMA Hour. “They’re always going to have their own opinions. You’re allowed to have your own opinion, but at the end of the day, you’re not going to affect my life. What you do with your life doesn’t affect me. I just think it was disgusting on his part to even be concerned about us as human beings and our lifestyle, and just the comments he was making.”
Strickland also trashed women’s mixed martial arts in general, to the ire of Pennington.
“MMA has grown a ton. The women are here. We’re here to stay. The divisions are growing. You have tons of up-and-coming talent, so to criticize female athletes, I don’t agree with any of that. But I can’t control that, and that wasn’t my focus. My focus was to go out there and accomplish my goal.
“Dana [White] and Hunter [Campbell] came in before the press conference, and they asked me how I was doing with everything. It was just one of those things; you take it as a grain of salt, and you dish it out. It’s not going to affect what I’m doing here. At the end of the day, you want to talk, but we’re still your co-main event fight.”
While Strickland had no qualms voicing his thoughts in public, Pennington claims he deliberately avoided personal interaction with her.
“Every time he came around, we both turned the other direction. I stared at him a couple times, and he would just turn the other direction. He’s out there, he’s a great athlete, he’s selling his fights, running his mouth, he’s being — freedom of speech, doing whatever — but no, he didn’t say anything. Interesting character.”