On January 28th Julianna Peña (8-2) takes on Valentina Shevchenko (13-2) in the main event of UFC on FOX 23. A victory could set-up the number-two ranked Peña for a shot at the UFC’s women’s bantamweight title. Despite being focused, “only on Shevchenko,” Peña did have time to share her thoughts with Bloody Elbow on what went down last month at UFC 207.
On December 30th, 2016 current UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes defended her belt versus former champion Ronda Rousey. Rousey had taken a prolonged absence from the sport leading up to her clash with Nunes, which she lost via TKO early in the first round.
“This sport has a real good way of humbling fighters. If you take a year off from the sport, it’s gonna evolve and pass you by,” said Peña. “If you’re not regularly training you’re going to get passed by and I think she was a victim of that.” Peña did state that she does not talk to Rousey or keep in touch with her “on a personal level” so she could not say for sure what Rousey’s mentality was like going into the fight with Nunes.
Whereas Rousey’s second devastating loss in a row may have been a surprise to many, Peña claimed the weaknesses exploited by both Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes were things she had noticed long before Rousey lost her title.
“I think that she was always brought out to be some amazing and untouchable force,” said Peña of the UFC’s marketing of Rousey. “But that was the fight I had been asking for, and begging Dana White for, for quite some time and he never gave it to me. So definitely I think that I’ve been able to see that from a long time ago, but that’s just not the way that it panned out for me. There’s nothing I can do about it now.”
When asked whether or not she wanted to fight Rousey in the near future, Peña called it a “dead subject” since she didn’t know if Rousey was ever going to come back to the sport.
Regardless of what happens, Peña - who was on opposite teams from Rousey on The Ultimate Fighter - wished the UFC’s first female champion well.
“She’s a pioneer in this sport,” said Peña. “She opened the doors for all of us women to get into MMA and my hat is off to her. I wish her all the best and whether she comes back or doesn’t come back, she’s rich and she’s happy. I hope that she finds happiness in her life and she realizes that just because you lost one fight; it does not define you as a human being.”
Peña’s upcoming bout, versus Valentina Shevchenko, will air live on FOX on January 28th. And the 27-year-old expects it will be a good one. “You’re gonna see the same gritty fighter you always see and the same dominating fighter that you’ve seen time and time again. I’m gonna bite down on my mouth piece. I’m gonna move forward. It’s gonna be an ugly fist-fight. That’s what fighting means to me. Who really wants it? Who’s got more heart? Who is tougher? And that’s what it comes down to. However it happens, however I get the win - on the feet, on the ground - I’m just focusing on getting my hand raised at the end of the fight and that’s what’s going to happen.”