Depression is no joke and for a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter, who has dedicated a decade of her life to combat sports, it can be particularly taxing.
Former Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20 contestant and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) strawweight combatant Felice Herrig knows all to well the attention that being an attractive female in a sport previously dominated by males can bring to one's personal life.
However, despite the immense success "Lil Bulldog" incurred throughout her lengthy fighting career, the amount of sponsor obligations and traveling done by Herrig over the years only stood to grow an already open wound.
"I lost motivation to go to the gym, and all I used to care about was training and fighting," Herrig told FOX Sports. "So I thought maybe I'm getting older and I'm just losing the hunger. I was more sore and the sleep was a big thing for me because I never felt rested."
Herring, 31, competed in muay-thai and kickboxing events before her eventual rise in MMA. She compiled a 23-5 record in kickboxing, winning the International Kickboxing Federation muay-thai U.S. bantamweight title, and first competed in MMA professionally in February 2009.
As her popularity on social media sky-rocketed and her climb up the women's bantamweight ranks began, so did the sleepless nights. The day-in and day-out grind was amplified once she joined the TUF 20 cast in summer 2014.
"I always felt I had to top everything so it was always more stress," Herrig said. "Not just about training but on top of that, it was my weigh-in outfit and my social media and my brand and my image. It got to be so much. Throughout the years, I worked so hard to get to where I'm at but when it started to take away from my training and my fights because I was putting so much work in other areas."
Case and point: Her second Octagon jaunt with upstart UFC golden girl Paige VanZant. After an early dismissal on UFC's reality show, Herrig dominated Lisa Ellis at the TUF 20 Finale, before being awarded the chance to squash "12 Gauge."
Only it didn't turn out that way because Herrig exhausted herself in the opening minute of their FOX-televised main card bout back in April.
"She started playing with the demons in her head," Herrig's manager Brian Butler explained. "What if I don't beat her? What about these media obligations? So she gets into that fight and she basically comes out like a bat out of hell in the first minute of the fight and then after that her energy was gone. She couldn't throw a jab. She was barely able to pick herself off the ground."
The Illinois native ultimately fell via unanimous decision that evening inside Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey and it was because she was self-admittedly a shell of herself. Herrig was stiff, numb and "physically couldn't move."
"That's how it felt and I told myself that I must not have trained hard enough or dieted hard enough or busted my ass. It was scary because I was worried that it would happen again," said Herrig.
Her abrupt and unfortunate loss stunted her growth in UFC, which prompted the veteran to request time off, according to Butler, to spend time with friends and "do stuff for herself," like the steamy Muscle & Fitness photo shoot (pics here).
With that said, Herrig has the itch to compete and had Butler place a call to UFC brass in order to make it known she was looking to return to the Octagon in December or January. She's ramping up her training and with her energy "so much better," as well as a heralded naturopathic doctor now in her corner to help alleviate stress and fatigue, Herrig is set for a UFC rebirth.
"I feel like my mind and body are in sync again. I'm not going to be as hard as myself in camp. I would train six days straight, two to three times a day because I always felt like I had to do more," Herrig said. "I have been feeling ready for a bit now."