Felice Herrig Ignores UFC Call from Dana White: Felice Herrig Unguarded and The Life-changing Missed Call
Words by: Helen Mei
Photos by: Tracy Lee
Described as both a “lover and a fighter” on her Twitter biography, Felice Herrig is a former kickboxing standout, as well as a professional mixed martial artist who formerly competed in the Invicta FC Strawweight division; she has recently signed with the UFC. She will compete on the first all-women season of “The Ultimate Fighter” for the inaugural UFC Strawweight title, which begins filming for six weeks on May 18. Known for her colorful personality, CombatLifestyle.com had the pleasure of sitting down with Herrig last week when she was in town for the electronics trade show, CES. We got in-depth with the fighter to hear everything from her heartwarming story on the special day her family was informed the big news about her appearing on the next season of TUF(The Ultimate Fighter), how she’s preparing for it differently than any of her other fights, to uncovering her unique talents outside of fighting. She also reveals her favorite food, pre-fight rituals, and a funny story involving UFC President Dana White.
Felice wore a white sundress with salmon pink and purple flowers designed on it, completed with tan wedges to match. She was upbeat and all smiles. Vivacious, Girly girl, Tomboy, Fighter; One would believe it is an oxymoron that those words would describe the same person, but those are just a few to describe the talented and lively Felice Herrig who holds a record of 9-5 in her professional MMA career. Currently ranked as the #9 Strawweight fighter in the world, it’s hard to believe Felice started fighting at 18 years old. Herrig remembers how she first fell in love with the sport and the man who was an influence to her in it. “My dad has been in martial arts since he was 17, so when he worked out, I always wanted to do it. My brother-in-law was a martial artist as well. I was never put into sports growing up because my parents didn’t have the money but I went to kickboxing class when I was 18, and from there on, I put everything into fighting.”
While she got her start in kickboxing, her career in mixed martial arts quickly escalated after her professional debut in 2009. However, during the interview, she still had a fresh memory of her last fight which resulted in a rare loss by unanimous decision against Tecia Torres on December 7. Just days concluding the fight, a funny incident which would forever change her life involving UFC President, Dana White, occurred. Felice recalled the story when asked about it, “Four days after my last fight, I was laying in bed depressed, then I got a phone call from a Vegas number. I didn’t answer it. Someone called a total of four times and texted once without his name. I kept ignoring it because I thought it was media wanting to talk about my last fight and I was really upset and didn’t want to talk to anyone.” She then reveals exactly what the text message said: “Felice, are you available to talk?” Irritated, she then texted her manager, Brian of Suckerpunch Entertainment to call the unknown number. He screened the call for her by saying, “Hi, are you trying to get a hold of Felice Herrig? This is her manager, Brian.” The voice on the other end said, this is Dana White and I really need to talk to Felice. Can you have her call me?” He called back immediately saying it was Dana White. She called Dana back and that is when he asked her to be on the next season of TUF. She also revealed, with a smile, when asked whether Dana White was mad about the ignored calls, “No, not at all.”
While women’s MMA has captured endless media attention and reached new heights recently, Felice Herrig was asked if she will prepare differently going into this particular television series, TUF(The Ultimate Fighter), compared to her prior fight routines. “I don’t want a lot of people to know how I’m preparing this time. I lost my last fight and I haven’t lost in a while. It was a blessing in disguise though because when you win, you don’t look at your mistakes. Since I lost, it re-lit a fire under me on a lot of things I need to work on. Leading up to TUF, I’m changing a lot of things this time around. It’s been a hard year for me; I was starting to lose desire for the sport but now with women being in UFC and on TUF, the payoff now is great as opposed to before.” She stated the most difficult part of being a fighter is the mental aspect of it rather than the physical. “The constant sacrifices you have to make and trying to live a normal life while you’re cutting weight. Weight cut is hard but motivating as a woman to see your body transform.”
Felice then opened up about her special pre-fight rituals. “I am a little odd when it comes to that. After weigh ins, I usually go to Outback Steakhouse, get two lobster tails, a baked potato, and a salad but didn’t do it my last fight. My fight outfits are all themed so that’s a ritual itself. Now, I have a photoshoot before every fight, and I get a new charm on my charm bracelet after every fight. I always make sure the athletic commissioner draws a smiley face on my hand wraps, too.” She further explains how that particular ritual got started. “Five or six years ago, when I won the IKF Muay Thai title, I asked the athletic commissioner to draw a smiley. However, as you get to the top level, you can’t do things the way you always have so I’m just getting used to the fact that I have to adapt more. In my last fight, I changed my rituals then I lost. It messed with my mind, but it’s all in your mind and I don’t want to jinx myself.” With her focus solely on fighting right now, she told Combat Lifestyle she is single. “I’m all or nothing because if I’m in a relationship, it’s all about it, so I wouldn’t be able to focus on fighting.”
The interview then transitioned to Felice’s “girly girl” side, as previously described. She talked about her interest in cosplay, which she is known to have her fight outfits themed after. “I’m obsessed with cosplay. My fight outfits are cosplay. I’ve done Supergirl and Chun Li, to name a few. I wear a Muay Thai skirt when I fight.” She explained whether she gets her inspirations for her fight outfits from cosplay. “I’m really big into themes, so I will see something and find a way to tie it in. For my last fight, I was Rosie the Riveter. I had a custom-made Muay Thai skirt. I’ll see a character and it just hits me. I have so many different ideas and design them all but don’t make them. When designing it, I keep my sponsors logos in mind as well.” Felice describes her fashion style outside of fighting as “girly but eccentric, and sporty as well.” She cites her favorite store to shop at is Guess, but is also very into the pinup clothing style.
The Strawweight fighter revealed a few of her hobbies. “A lot of my hobbies are fighting related. Working out, photoshoots, I love to feel pretty. I use to draw all the time, but now I design my fight outfits. I love food, too. I know it’s not a hobby but I love being at a nice restaurant and eating good food.” She then elaborated more about that pastime. “Cannoli are my favorite dessert. I love cannoli and Chicago deep dish pizza,” Felice said with enthusiasm and a bright smile. “I like all food. I love Thai food, too, so it varies. I’m also a health nut; I’m either healthy or unhealthy. I’m extreme at everything.” While on the subject of food, she was asked which candy bar describes her best. “Something with nuts, so probably an Almond Joy,” she laughs.
Felice Herrig is not only a gifted fighter, but also very creative as well. The TUF strawweight competitor spoke about her unique talent. “Sometimes I make and decorate sock monkeys. It’s weird, people associate me with sock monkeys. One is named Mon-k, a Mexican sock monkey which has a sombrero and a mustache. My main sock monkey has a Twitter named Sock’em” She showed us a few photos of her sock monkeys, which can also be found on her Facebook fan page. It’s no secret she is very creative as well. She then revealed how she began making them. “I started randomly because I bought one for a friend and a logo was ironed on the sock monkey. Then I got creative and made one as a gift one day.”
Herrig briefly notes she has appeared on the reality television series, Fight Girls. Since her childhood, Felice always wanted to be an actress and move to Los Angeles. However, she clarifies she wouldn’t pursue it in the meantime because fighting is very crucial to her, and there’s still unfinished business in her current career.
We asked Felice about how her parents reacted to the big news being on TUF, and an emotional side of the normally bubbly girl came out. “There’s no words to describe it but excited and proud. It was on my mom’s birthday too. Growing up, they did the best they could to take care of us but there were five kids so they didn’t have many chances to do anything big with their lives so they like to brag about me. My dad does it all the time and tells me how proud he is of me.” She pauses for a moment, then continues as a few tears roll down her face. “He says all the time he never got to do anything with his life and feels I made up for it.” Now with her usual smiley self and a big grin, she mentioned that accomplished champion kickboxer and boxer, Jeri Sitzes, is her idol, “It’s crazy because when I got started, there was no end goal for women’s fighting, but I knew that I was on a mission to make a career out of it.”
She concluded the interview thanking her fans and sponsors: Alienware, Allmax, Solider Fit, Rev Gear, Americana, Voip Dragon, Battleware, Team Curran, Suckerpunch.