Germaine de Randamie: 'Strongest that I've ever been' despite long, trying layoff dealing with hate

DENVER – With a full time job, a solid support system and an overall “great life” outside the cage, Germaine de Randamie could have walked away from MMA if she wanted to.

And, considering the events that transpired after de Randamie’s (8-3 MMA, 4-1 UFC) controversial title win over Holly Holm at UFC 208, it would be understandable if she had. Yet, 21 months later, here she is, just a few days away from meeting ex-title contender Raquel Pennington (9-6 MMA, 6-3 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 139.

Why?

“I’m in this sport because I love this,” de Randamie told MMAjunkie ahead of the FS1-televised main card bantamweight bout. “If I wanted to stop, and I didn’t love it this much, I wouldn’t be here. But I love it this much that I’m like, nothing can stop me from doing what I love. And the only thing I want to do is share my love with people that love the same thing as much as I love it.”

Keeping the love, though, wasn’t always an easy task in the months that followed her infamous conquest of the UFC’s inaugural women’s featherweight title in February 2017.

De Randamie met former bantamweight champion Holm in a five-round headlining bout, which she won unanimously on the judges’ scorecards. But what was meant to have been one of the highlights of de Randamie’s career was marred by controversy on both its immediate and long-term aftermath.

After committing fouls that didn’t lead to point deductions, de Randamie had the 48-47 scorecards questioned and immediately saw herself fending off accusations of being a dirty a fighter. De Randamie, who disclosed a hand injury shortly afterward, fell off the map for a few weeks, sparking even later-dismissed retirement rumors, before flat-out refusing to fight then-contender Cris Cyborg.

Through her management, de Randamie said she refused to fight “known and proven cheater” Cyborg, even if it cost her the belt. It eventually did – de Randamie was stripped of the title, which Cyborg would go on to conquer and defend, a few months after earning it.

De Randamie’s somewhat peculiar reign wasn’t particularly popular with the fans, and she saw herself amid some fire as she healed up the hand that would go on to cost her two attempted matchups and require surgery.

Germaine de Randamie walked out of UFC 208 as a champion. (USA TODAY Sports)

It got “very tough” sometimes, de Randamie will admit.

“If people tell you to commit suicide, or people tell you you’re worthless, yeah, it hurts,” de Randamie said. “It definitely hurts.”

Thankfully, de Randamie had a “great support system” that helped keep her motivated and on track. And then there’s her own positive nature, which kept the returning bantamweight focused on the bright side of her having a public platform as a fighter.

“It’s not only hate,” de Randamie said. “There’s also a lot of people that send me messages, ‘Thank you. Thank you for being you. Thank you for inspiring. Thank you for your strong words. Thank you for still standing up. It inspired us.’ That gives strength, too. If some little boy or girl walks up to you in the gym or on the street and says, ‘Mom, that’s the Iron Lady, can I take a picture with you?’

“Then, what’s some internet hero writing behind his computer about me, that doesn’t even know me and has an opinion about something they don’t even know nothing about? It is what it is. And I’m like, ‘This is worth so much more.’ And one day I hope to become a mom. And I want my children to be proud of me. And I want to remember that I didn’t give up. And that they should never give up.”

That’s the type of positive spin that de Randamie is putting into Saturday’s bout at Pepsi Center. On the one hand, being away from the cage for almost two years is not quite ideal. But, since that’s what the circumstances required, she gets to focus on the great preparation she’s had ahead of it.

“I think and I feel like I’m mentally, physically, the strongest that I’ve ever been,” de Randamie said. “So, for me, it has been a good time out.”

As for the featherweight belt that kicked off these somewhat rocky months? De Randamie says it’s still at her home – and not kept away in some closet, as one may have imagined given the headaches it brought along. She won it, de Randamie argues, so she’s still got it.

Even if, at the end of the day, there’s only so much that it tells her.

“No matter what people say, I still fought the fight,” de Randamie said. “I’m still proud of the fight. But I don’t – honestly, I don’t care about any belts. I’m 10 times world champion in kickboxing. I’m European champion multiple times, I’m Dutch champion multiple times. I have enough belts.

“It’s a cool belt to have. I’m not going to lie. It’s beautiful. But do I care about the belt? No. I’d rather be the people’s champion than the UFC champion. Win the crowd, win your freedom, right?”

To hear from de Randamie, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC Fight Night 139, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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