The day Felice Herrig entered the Ultimate Fighter house for season 20 of the reality show, she was already one of the most talked about competitors in the division. Even now with Herrig locked away with 15 other women all competing for the inaugural UFC women’s strawweight title, other fighters can’t help but mention her name in interviews and it’s usually not complimentary.
Herrig was consistently ranked as a top 10 fighter in the 115-pound women’s division, but even she would admit she wasn’t the champion or the top contender when The Ultimate Fighter season 20 cast was put together. Still, she’s constantly badgered by other fighters and often made to look like the villain due to her outgoing nature on social networks like Twitter and Instagram.
The former Invicta fighter made a decision a long time ago that MMA goes beyond fighting into a realm of marketing that allows competitors like Herrig to make a living even without being in a promotion as huge as the UFC. And it worked — Herrig quickly became one of the most talked about fighters in the women’s division, and she wasn’t ashamed to create a viral campaign that included photoshoots, videos, and some of the most creative weigh-in attire you’ll ever see in the sport.
Regardless of wins or losses, Herrig’s popularity soared, but along with that success came even more scrutiny for her willingness to use looks and sex appeal to sell her as a fighter.
"I have come from nothing and I’ve built a career out of nothing. I’ve found a way to make a living off of fighting and sponsors and everything fight related. I’m just a smart businesswoman," Herrig told FOX Sports prior to moving to Las Vegas for six weeks. "I’ve always seen the bigger picture aside from just fighting and I know I can’t fight for my whole life. I’m trying to set up a career when I’m done fighting."
Ultimately, Herrig isn’t sure why so many women’s fighters who have never met her, engaged with her or even talked to her via social media all of a sudden have a problem with the way she’s been marketed during her career.
The lyrics to the classic 1964 song by Nina Simone come to mind whenever talking about Herrig’s perception amongst other fighters in women’s MMA — "I’m just a soul whose intentions are good, oh Lord please don’t let me be misunderstood".
"I do believe that (I’m misunderstood) and from talking to people that meet me for the first time they’re like ‘you’re a lot different than I thought you were going to be’ and I’m like ‘what do you mean?’ and they say ‘oh I thought you were just all into yourself, all into looks, or you were stupid’." So I do feel like I’m really misunderstood. I think that’s because I have a bold, outgoing personality and I think I put myself out there so much and people like to dissect. I feel like I’ve marketed myself well, and I’ve done that with my manager Brian Butler and we’ve just been very attentive to the fact that I am my own business," Herrig said.
"There’s no reason for girls who have never met, have never had a conversation with me or not even in my weight class, and girls a lot of them go out of their way to talk about me and a lot of it has to stem from jealousy. A lot of girls don’t understand and think ‘oh why does she have that or she doesn’t deserve that’ but in all reality they don’t know me and they don’t know my story. I know who I am as a person. My hands are clean of that. I’m used to it by now."
To hear the entire interview with Herrig as a preview to The Ultimate Fighter 20 listen in to the special edition of TUF Talk below and don’t forget to visit FOX Sports often between now and September 10 when the new season of the show debuts on FOX Sports 1