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Felice Herrig: Getting control of anxiety issues a 'big factor' in win over Kailin Curran

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It had been 15 months since Felice Herrig last competed in the UFC, but she made a nice statement in her hometown of Chicago upon her return. The Ultimate Fighter 20 cast alum was able to take out 25-year old Hawaiian fighter Kailin Curran in the first round of her strawweight main card bout via a rear-naked choke.

And with that, the kickboxer was able to put some ghosts behind her. Namely some anxiety and fatigue that she said she suffered through in her last fight with Paige VanZant at UFC on FOX 15 last year. Now that she's back on the winning side of the ledger, Herrig said she wasn't quite sure what would happen next.

"I don't really have a plan," she said during the UFC on FOX 20 post-fight press conference at the United Center in Chicago.  "I haven't really thought about it. I want to enjoy this win. But now that I'm back to normal, back to myself...people don't realize that, you know, my last fight was the first time I ever had felt like, after the first minute-and-a-half my body just went numb. I didn't know what was happening, and so I had a bunch of lab work done and medical tests done, and my body has been just so burnt out from all the years that I've been fighting. So I took a few steps back. That's why I took the time off.

"I was always training, but I was working on all the things that I maybe had been stubborn to do before, and I worked on getting my anxiety under control which was a huge factor. And this was the first fight where I felt relaxed and where I felt like I did everything in the fight I know I'm capable of, things I do in the gym. So we'll see what's next. I don't really know."

Herrig (11-6) defeated Lisa Ellis in her official UFC debut in the TUF 20 Finale back in December 2014, but had appeared just one other time since then — a unanimous decision loss against VanZant. Before then the 31-year old Herrig had appeared in Bellator and Invicta FC, where she battled fellow TUF 20 contestants Heather Jo Clark and Tecia Torres.

She has had a rocky relationship with fighting, having flirted with retirement. Yet fighting in Chicago was just the homecoming Herrig said she needed.

"I was pretty focused on this fight, but I did feed off the crowd's energy a lot," she said. "I could tell I had a lot of people backing me and supporting me here. Like I've said before, I grew up in Chicago This is where I've been my whole like. Back when I started fighting when I was 18 I fought on all the local kickboxing shows. So it's nice that as my career has evolved I'm able to fight here again, because a lot of people have supported me for quite some time, my friends and my family, My parents have never been to one of my UFC fights. They've never ever been to a fight outside of Chicago. So I was just happy that people I'm closest with could be here to see it."