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Germaine de Randamie returns to revive ‘dead’ division

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Former UFC champion Germaine de Randamie is ready to re-enter the fold after at UFC Fight Night 240 following 42 months away from the octagon. And she does so with renewed motivation.

De Randamie (10-4 MMA, 7-2 UFC) hasn’t competed since October 2020, when she choked Julianna Peña unconscious. It was one of many notable wins on her resume, which also includes current women’s bantamweight champion Raquel Pennington, Holly Holm and two-time PFL champ Larissa Pacheco.

The third-round submission of Peña in her most recent trip to the octagon was significant at the time. It propelled de Randamie, who won the inaugural UFC women’s featherweight title in February 2017, into the title picture at women’s bantamweight. But then she vanished for 3.5 years.

“I fought Peña and then the (COVID-19) pandemic came,” de Randamie told MMA Junkie on Wednesday. “I didn’t get vaccinated because I wanted to become a mom one day. It was my wish since I was a little girl. So, I wasn’t allowed to travel to the United States. And at the same time after the Peña fight I was a little bit burned out.

“I was a little bit burned out, so I thought I would take some time off and I’m like, ‘I’m not getting any younger.’ It was the right time for me to see if I could get a baby in. I got a baby, and I’m the happiest woman alive right now.”

And that’s the big change for de Randamie. She’s now a mother to a nearly one-year-old boy, and it has altered her outlook on the world.

De Randamie said she probably wouldn’t have returned to the UFC if she didn’t give birth to a child. She could’ve continued her full-time job as a police officer at home in the Netherlands and led a fulfilling life as she did during the long hiatus from MMA. She found a new reason to fight, though, and that’s why she back on Saturday against Norma Dumont (10-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas (ESPN+).

“Five weeks after I gave birth to my son, I was back in training,” de Randamie said. “If I didn’t have my son, honestly, I don’t know if I would have come back to fighting. Having a son, I’m not just raising a son: I’m raising somebody’s husband one day, I’m raising a father probably some day, and I want to set an example for him. I want to show him through hard work, dedication that anything is possible.

“I want to be his role model. One time, when he’s ready and understands, I want to show him and explain to him and show him what I’ve done, and I hope he’ll be proud of me. I hope he realizes and takes strength out of it.”

Set to turn 40 on April 24, and on the heels of such a long layoff, only the performance will show if de Randamie is still top tier. However, she hasn’t taken much damage throughout a more than 20-year combat sports career.

De Randamie went 46-0 during her decorated kickboxing run, and has never been knocked down in MMA competition. She’s only been finished once in more than a decade under the UFC banner, and that was by ground-and-pound from Amanda Nunes back in November 2013.

Those are advantages on the side of an aging fighter, and de Randamie said she’s ticked all the boxes to come back at her best. But she admits some cage rust is expected.

“75 percent of fighting is mental,” de Randamie said. “(Mentally) I’m the strongest I’ve ever been. I can say that. Do I expect to be the very best version of myself this Saturday after 3.5 years? No. But, I do know I gave it my all in this camp, and I will give it my all Saturday night. No matter what happens Saturday night, I will walk out of that octagon with my head held high. Because Sunday the sun will go up and I’ll jump on a plane and go back home and cuddle with my son. That’s all that matters.”

If de Randamie is able to get past Dumont, she said she will be shooting for the top of the women’s bantamweight division, which has changed vastly in the past few years. Nunes is retired. Pennington now has the belt, and Peña is chasing the gold she won and lost during de Randamie’s absence.

There’s also next week’s UFC 300 fight between Holm and the debuting Kayla Harrison, who has tons of hype and could be thrusted into a title bout with a strong first impression.

With a unanimous decision victory over Pennington from November 2018 already on her record, de Randamie thinks defeating Dumont gives her the best case.

“I’m going to fight Raquel next,” de Randamie said. “Julianna Peña is out of the rankings because she’s been inactive. The division is quite dead since Amanda left. You’ve got a great fight next week with Kayla vs. Holly. But I defeated Holly. I defeated Peña. I defeated Raquel. Raquel asked everyone she lost too to rematch, except me. My only loss in the UFC comes by the hands of Amanda Nunes. I defeated Larissa Pacheco. I defeated Aspen Ladd. If I defeat Norma on Saturday, I’m going to ask the UFC, very friendly, to give me my title shot.

“I should be the one fighting next for the title. I absolutely respect Raquel. But a true champion knows – if you ask anybody you lost to a rematch, then you should also rematch me. Peña is out. Why should we wait? The division since Amanda left is a little bit quiet. Not a lot of things happening. Let’s make it exciting again.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 240.

Be sure to visit the MMA Junkie Instagram page and YouTube channel to discuss this and more content with fans of mixed martial arts.

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