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Seven months after giving birth, Stephanie Eggink taking wait-and-see approach to MMA comeback

Esther Lin, Invicta FC

Stephanie Eggink was just a few months removed from almost becoming the Invicta women's strawweight champion when she got life-altering news: She was pregnant.

Despite her standing as one of the top 115-pound fighters in the world, Eggink considered hanging up the gloves when she found out she was having a son.

"I didn't know what I wanted to do," she told MMA Fighting. "Your priorities instantly change the second you find out you're pregnant. But I'm a fighter. I'm still a fighter."

And she will be that again Friday night when she makes her return against Angela Hill at Invicta FC 16 at Trinidad Pavilion at the Tropicana Las Vegas. Eggink's son Ronan was born just seven months ago and her training didn't miss a beat.

"A lot of people said there was no way I was gonna get back in there within the year and in seven months here I am," Eggink said. "That's a big hurdle for me. I have a 12-pack again and I just had a kid."

Not that it has been easy. On top of training, Eggink is a full-time paramedic in Sioux Falls, S.D. Add in a newborn child and things have been hectic at times. Luckily for her, Ronan has been a perfect angel and his dad is also Eggink's strength and conditioning coach. Eggink takes him to the gym with her every night. He's almost always by her side.

"If he was a difficult baby, I wouldn't be fighting today," Eggink said. "I know that for sure."

Eggink (4-2) is taking a wait-and-see approach to her fighting career at this point. Just because she's returning now doesn't mean this is permanent. "Snowflake" understands that as a parent you have to remain flexible.

"I'm gonna take this one fight at a time, though," Eggink said. "I do have a new priority. I'm not making any long-term plans in my fighter career right now. One fight at a time. If it starts being too difficult to take him to the gym, then that's that."

Eggink, 27, has not fought since that title loss to Katja Kankaanpää at Invicta 8 in September 2014. In that bout, she was winning into the fifth round when Kankanpää caught her in a d'arce choke. Eggink had won three in a row going in, including victories over current UFC fighters Heather Jo Clark and Angela Magana.

It wouldn't have been outlandish to say at the time that Eggink was one of the top 15 women's strawweight fighters in the world. Now? Eggink will wait until Friday night to decide that for herself.

"It's been a while since I've been in there, so I don't know where I stand," she said. "I know how I feel. Everything is different now. There's a new champion. There's new top contenders. [Former opponent] Alexa Grasso was just coming up when I was fighting for the belt. There's a whole new breed of fighters. We'll see. I think this fight is going to be a big deciding factor for where people view me. It's gonna put me on the map really fast, I think."

Hill (3-2) has been on The Ultimate Fighter and in the UFC. Eggink is not sure yet if that's what she wants with her career, but she knows she can prove she belongs at that -- again -- if she beats Hill.

"This fight is doing a lot for me, not just in my ranking, but mentally me gauging where I'm at now," Eggink said. "I don't want to downplay myself, but I don't have any thoughts of going for the gold. I'm going for Friday night. That's my goal right now: Friday night. What happens after that, we'll see."

She might not have decided to continue fighting right away, but Eggink barely left her Next Edge Academy gym. Even at eight months pregnant, she was still training -- just telling teammates not to put their weight on her stomach during grappling exchanges.

"Then I just got so big it was just awkward," Eggink said. "I had to stop."

Before long, Ronan was born and Eggink was back in the gym. On Friday, she'll get back in the cage.

"It's been tough," Eggink said, "but it's worth it."

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