UFC champ Julianna Pena wants Ronda Rousey to support tough octagon talks

welcome to The weekly withdrawal, Sports Illustrated’s in-depth look at MMA. Each week, this column offers insight and information on the most notable stories from the world of combat.

Julianna Peña felt the tidal wave of momentum rush towards her.

Amanda Nunes had dictated the pace within the first five minutes of their fight in December at UFC 269, giving every reason to ensure her winning streak would go from 13 to 13. But then the unthinkable happened – Peña held her own against Nunes in the second round, beating the women’s bantamweight champion blow after blow after blow. Suddenly, Nunes looked exhausted. The narrative had changed, forcefully, and it was only a matter of time before the inevitable inevitably happened.

“It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do this,” Peña said. “Yes, I took heavy hits. But it’s a fist fight. I’ve been doing this for 13 years. I know I will be touched. When you get hit, that’s the moment that shows whether you’re going to crumble or succeed. I knew I had to walk through that fire. If I could take these pictures and keep walking, I knew I would be fine.

Julianna Peña (r.) moves in with a hit against Amanda Nunes during UFC 269 at T-Mobile Arena.

More than just a fire, Peña unleashed a fiery fighting spirit in that career-defining second round. The look on Nunes’ face was particularly telling. Once the image of supreme confidence, fear and doubt suddenly appeared in his eyes. It was then that Peña brought Nunes to the mat, locking him in a rear-end choke and shocking the fighting world with a stunning victory against the seemingly unbeatable Nunes.

“Her eyes were getting as big as dinner plates and I could see her withering,” Peña said. “At that point, I started thinking, ‘I think I could finish her standing. I think maybe I could f—— knock him out. And all I could see was a sea of ​​white, with my sneakers jumping around and saying, “Go!” Squeeze it! Squeeze her!”

Peña finished the fight with his submission and has been basking in a whirlwind of glory ever since. This includes starring in the new season of The ultimate fighterwhich airs on ESPN+ on May 3, where she will coach against Nunes.

“All my career, I wanted to train on The ultimate fightersaid Peña, who won The ultimate fighter in 2013. “When you get your black belt, all of a sudden they say you become a white belt and your job is to give back to the sport. It’s time for me to help guide this new generation of promising fighters in the UFC. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’m really happy to have this opportunity.

Julianna Pena.

Julianna Pena.

Peña’s first title defense will be a rematch against Nunes. Back-to-back wins over Nunes would elevate Peña to a whole new realm of greatness, but she has even bigger ambitions: Peña wants a fight against Ronda Rousey.

“It’s always been a fight I’m interested in,” Peña said. “When Dana White allowed women into the UFC, he just gave Ronda a belt. She didn’t have to compete, she didn’t have to do anything. He just said, ‘Hey, welcome to this promotion, here is this shiny belt.’ After he gave her the belt, she had to fight Liz Carmouche. At that point, I’m sure The ultimate fighter. I wasn’t fighting one person, I had to fight four people. When I emerged victorious, I was ready to face Ronda.

When Peña won The ultimate fighter, she fought on Miesha Tate’s team against a team led by Rousey. Although Rousey hasn’t fought since her loss to Nunes in 2016, Peña still vividly remembers her discussion with Rousey nearly a decade ago.

“Ronda said to me, ‘You’re going to give me a tougher fight than Miesha Tate could ever dream of – but when that day comes, I’m still going to kick your ass,'” Peña said. “And I said, ‘We’ll see.’ So, of course, I want to fight Ronda. It was a fight I was fighting before I ripped my knee [in 2014]. When I came back she lost and ran away and didn’t come back. But I feel like she wants to come back.

“It bothers her that she went on two knockout losses and never came back to avenge them. If she ever wants to avenge those losses, I would love the opportunity to compete with her and fight her. I don’t think that will happen. Let’s face it, he’s a star. She kills it in WWE, and she can make a lot more money doing what she does there instead of doing the real s—. But if she wants to challenge herself and get back to serious business, I’ll be there.

Scroll to continue

Ronda Rousey during the Royal Rumble The Dome at America's Center.

Ronda Rousey during the Royal Rumble The Dome at America’s Center.

While a fight against Rousey would be a huge payday and pay-per-view headliner, Peña has plenty to focus on in the present with an Octagon date looming against Nunes. She remained confident, believing that her victory was no fluke, but rather the result of more than a decade of perseverance and dedication to the craft.

“I’ve been on the scene since Dana White allowed women in the UFC,” Peña said. “So that night against Amanda reminded me that I’m here. I’ve always been here. I haven’t been anywhere and I’m here to stay. I want people to follow me on my journey as I go through these uncharted waters as a champion.

“I’m going to fight Amanda again, and guess what? I’m going to get hit again. It’s something I already know, and I’m comfortable in those awkward positions. It’s what I do every day to survive and thrive. This is what separates the elite from the average.

The title fight against Nunes epitomized Peña’s fighting spirit. She was ready to stand up and fight – and show that she was tougher in the cage than Nunes, a notion unimaginable before their fight. She believes history will repeat itself when they relaunch it, when she can prove that there is no doubt who is the best in the world.

“You are your only limit,” Peña said. “If you don’t believe in yourself, how are you going to expect others to believe in you? No one can take away from me the amount of work I have provided. When you work hard, when you work hard, you can confidently go out there and say, “I’m going to kill them. There’s a little dog inside of you that says, “I’m not giving up. Well, now I have a big dog inside of me that will literally bite off someone’s head if they come near me. That’s how I’m focused. This is how I am ready. That’s how I worked hard. No one can take that away from me.

“For me, it’s all about the road to the rematch against Amanda. And I have an unwavering fight in me that I know I can do it.


ONE Championship Announces Groundbreaking Media Rights Deal

ONE Championship has arrived in the United States.

Their new media rights deal with Amazon Prime Video was announced on Wednesday, a five-year deal under which Prime Video will broadcast at least a dozen live ONE Championship martial arts events per year.

ONE, which is the largest martial arts organization in the world, is already one of the top five global sports properties in terms of viewership and engagement. The promotion offers world-class MMA, as well as Muay Thai, kickboxing, and submission grappling.

There is a distinct uniqueness that ONE brings to fight fans in the United States with all of these disciplines. The world’s most captivating Muay Thai formation now has a primetime spot in the United States, as do the submission grapplers, who are among the sport’s true icons. No other promotion in the United States offers anything beyond MMA, so ONE is now parting ways with the opportunity to show off something completely new at the highest levels of combat.

The first shows on Amazon will be crucial for ONE, and it will be important to give fans something different. If presented correctly, Muay Thai could have a large audience. This is groundbreaking news from ONE, and a world of potential now exists for their future.


The Choose Them section:

Here is my selection for this Saturday UFC fight night card, which I think will be an outstanding performance for Rob Font:

UFC Fight Night Main Event: Rob Font vs. Marlon Vera

To take: Rob Police

UFC heavyweight fight: Andrei Arlovski vs. Jake Collier

To take: Jake Necklace

UFC Featherweight Fight: Andre Fili vs. Joanderson Brito

To take: Andre Fili

UFC Lightweight Fight: Jared Gordon vs. Grant Dawson

To take: Grant Dawson

UFC Featherweight Fight: Darren Elkins vs. Tristan Connelly

To take: Darren Elkin

Last week: 2-3

Record 2022: 52-22

After mma Cover:

Justin Barrasso can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @justin barrasso.