Bad news for Marion Reneau. She’s not going to sneak up on anyone anymore.
In 2015, the bantamweight from Visalia went from being a virtual unknown to a top 15 contender, all in the space of three fights. “The Belizean Bruiser” has used the word “whirlwind” and that couldn’t be more accurate, but she has found time between fighting, training, teaching and being a mother to take that life-altering year in.
“Heck yeah,” she laughs. “I think right after the Holly (Holm) fight, even though I lost and I wasn’t the happiest person in the world, I looked back and I was like ‘thank you, Lord.’ There have been things that I have been able to do for my son that I would never have been able to do for him, and for myself as well. I can’t believe that was my year, and I still want more. But I have to decompress and allow myself to take it all in. I have to live for the moment.”
The next moment for Reneau is this Sunday in Pittsburgh, as she risks her number 12 ranking against Ashlee Evans-Smith. It comes on the heels of two wins over Alexis Dufresne and Jessica Andrade and a three-round decision loss to current women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm, all of which have combined to make Reneau a contender who doesn’t have to look for respect anymore. Not that being the underdog was ever an issue.
“To me, it doesn’t matter what kind of respect somebody else gives me,” Reneau said. “There are going to be naysayers regardless. There are naysayers for this fight as well, so it’s not me hunting and saying ‘hey I deserve this.’ It’s just one of those things where I will continue to earn their respect. And whether I have their respect or not makes no difference to me.”
So no desire to say I told you so?
“It’s self-gratifying for myself, telling myself that I knew I could make it,” she said. “I’ve never been a person to point fingers and say I told you so. I’ve never been that person.”
Fight fans have done that job just fine in her place, and with good reason. Entering the Octagon with a 4-1 record and a reputation as a groundfighter, Reneau showed off her striking in defeating Dufresne, and then it was her submission game in a win over Andrade that earned her Performance of the Night honors. The loss to Holm stung, but she went three competitive rounds with a future world champion as well as one of the best female boxers to ever lace up the gloves.
“I do feel way more confident,” Reneau said. “And not just in my stand-up, but my wrestling as well. I’ve made improvements there as well because let’s face it, yeah, you want to be a ground fighter, but you’ve got to get there first, and you see how that backfired on me with Holly. So I’m not just sticking to improving one thing; I need to showcase more skills. I need to showcase the whole mixture of martial arts.”
That starts Sunday, and down the line, why not another fight with Holm, this one with two extra rounds.
“I know that my ultimate goal is to want that championship belt, so I would love to get that opportunity to do it again,” she said. “I know the bantamweight division is wide open right now and there’s a lot of girls competing for that title shot, so I’m at the point in my life where I want to do whatever it takes to get that again so I can showcase different skills like I wanted to, but I was unable to in that fight.”