When a Las Vegas phone number kept showing up on her caller ID, Felice Herrig’s instincts told her to ignore it.
But after receiving four calls from the same number, the Crystal Lake resident insisted her manager call and find out who was constantly bothering her. She never expected the number to belong to UFC President Dana White.
“I had to call him and say, ‘Sorry I didn’t answer your phone call,’ ” Herrig said Monday. “But it probably scored some cool points for me. [White] was probably [saying], ‘Man, she’s playing hard to get. We want her.”
Herrig, who fights out of Team Curran MMA gym in Crystal Lake, is in the midst of an intense five-month training camp after being one of 11 Invicta Fight Club fighters to have their contracts picked up by UFC. All 11 will compete on Season 20 of “The Ultimate Fighter” on Fox Sports 1 with the winner being crowned UFC’s inaugural strawweight (115 pounds) champion. It is scheduled to air beginning in September.
Herrig will leave for Las Vegas on May 18 and will begin a six-week period when all of her access to the outside world will be cut off. She will surrender her cellphone, her Internet and TV access and will
be allowed to travel only to and from the gym during the taping of the show in which she faces the potential of having to fight three times in six weeks. As part of the deal, Herrig said must sign a $3 million confidentiality agreement, keeping the show’s result a secret.
It’s a schedule Herrig appeared ready to walk away from in the days leading up to her unanimous decision loss to Tecia Torres at Invicta FC 7.
“I was kind of burned out and for women, there was really no end goal,” said Herrig, who was ranked No. 5 in the world before losing to Torres. “You constantly fight, you constantly put your body through a lot and the money really isn’t that great.
“It was getting to the point where I was like, ‘Why?’... It wasn’t that I didn’t love fighting, but you can only invest so much into it when it’s not paying off.”
White’s call that UFC had purchased her contract changed everything. Between now and when taping begins in May, Herrig will continue to train with coach Jeff Curran in Crystal Lake. But the opportunity with UFC will allow her to step up several aspects of her preparations from hiring a full-time nutritionist to flying in top-level female competition from overseas to help her prepare for “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Herrig previously appeared on the reality TV show “Fight Girls.”
Herrig also will begin seeing a sports psychologist, making sure she is ready for an opportunity that could deliver a UFC championship. Curran believes after Herrig struggled with possibly walking away after 11 years as a professional fighter, Herrig will make the most of the chance in Las Vegas.
“[Before the fight] I felt like everything was just adding up into a lot of something and I don’t know what that was,” Curran said Monday. “Now, she’s motivated and being pushed in the right direction.”
With being promoted to the UFC, Herrig understands the exposure and the expectations will only grow. That has sharpened her focus for the next several months. Curran said, between Herrig’s personality and already being a known commodity in the fight community, she is a perfect fit for the UFC-produced reality show.
The rest, Herrig said, is up to her.
“I’m going to be on the big stage, and a lot more eyes are going to be on me,” Herrig said. “But that’s what I have always wanted. So I know I have to be ready.”