Las Vegas, NV – It was a long road to UFC 269 and the biggest upset in women’s MMA history, possibly MMA history, for Julianna Peña but once she got there it was nothing but gold.
Peña (11-4) defeated Amanda Nunes via rear-naked choke to win the UFC bantamweight title at UFC 269 on Saturday night at T-Mobile arena.
Peña described what it took to get the title fight against Nunes at her post-fight media scrum.
“At UFC 200, when the T-Mobile arena first opened up, me and Cat (Zingano) were the first girls on the card and I beat Cat. When Amanda fought Miesha (Tate) I sat cage side and I said ‘I want that fight.’ When she became champion she came here and sat before you guys and you guys asked her ‘Who’s next’ and said ‘I think Julianna Peña’ and I’m like that’s great that’s my fight I want that fight, I called for it at the cage. So I’m expecting to fight Amanda,” Peña said.
“Well Ronda Rousey just got knocked out by Holly Holm and she got to cut the line and instead of Amanda fighting me she took a fight with Ronda. And I’m like that’s not fair but, you know, it’s MMA. So she took the fight with Ronda. Somewhere along the line I got pregnant, I came back from pregnancy, I beat former world champion Nicco Montano and I called for that fight against the champ. It didn’t end up happening.”
After a fight with Germaine de Randamie where she lost by guillotine choke Peña described Nunes saying that Peña didn’t deserve to have a title shot.
“Her camp (Nunes) was over in Abu Dhabi saying ‘She is watching very closely, she does not want to fight you’ this is the rumor that I’m hearing. And it’s from her camp. When I lost to Germaine de Randamie she tweeted out ‘You haven’t even made yourself worthy for me’ and I’m like ‘Man I had that fight, it was a bad night for me.’ I turned around and stayed active and I got that win against Sara McMann.”
Peña claims the UFC offered her a coaching role against Nunes on The Ultimate Fighter, an offer that Peña accepted. According to Peña the UFC told her she needed to wait for Nunes to handle some personal things such as tending to a farm in Brazil. Peña did not buy it however since Nunes’ wife was set to fight Mackenzie Dern.
“Ok she’s not going to Brazil I can see her wife is having a fight against Mackenzie Dern. She is not in Brazil. It’s not like she’s going to take her baby by herself to Brazil. Then she said ‘No, I’m not going to do The Ultimate Fighter’. And I’m like ‘Of course you’re not’.”
If that wasn’t a long enough wait for a shot at the belt, even after they had finally set the bout for August, Nunes withdrew from the bout.
“Now back in, I think May, she said she had COVID and it was reported “Amanda Nunes has COVID’ so now come in August she has COVID again.”
Peña made clear that she is not downplaying COVID whatsoever but she found the timing of the second round with COVID as ‘weird timing’. The rumors continued to fly and they found their way to Peña.
“Not only that once again I hear from a rumor from somebody in their camp, they say ‘She hasn’t even been training. She hasn’t even showed up at the gym this entire time’.”
Finally UFC 269 arrived and both her and Nunes had made it to the fight but Nunes was still uneasy about the fight actually happening.
“Honestly, no disrespect, the whole time I’m thinking something is going to happen and she’s not going to make it. Because she pulled out with Valentina, I think the night of the fight. And she pulled out with me the week of the fight. So I was like ‘Yes I’m going to show up in December but if Amanda does show up or not that’s going to be the question.’ That’s the only thing that I was worried about.”
Getting the win against Nunes was made even sweeter by the fact that Nunes had taken the belt from Peña’s mentor Miesha Tate and now she defeats Nunes to win that belt herself.
“It just seems like it was my time. There was so many signs leading up to this moment. There was so many times in my life, not only signs but dreams. Dreams of myself and dreams of others. I’m really weirdly into that kind of stuff that spiritual thing. I have a very strong faith in God. And that is something that kept me strong mentally, physically and emotionally to get to this point specially having to go through another fight camp. I just really think that you know it’s a surreal moment but its absolutely my time. And I knew, I’m not surprised. I’m really not.”
Watch the full UFC 269 post-fight scrum with Julianna Peña above. More coverage can be found below, and on our UFC 269 page.