TUF 18 Finale: Julianna Pena Discusses Historic Win, “Arrogance” of Ronda Rousey
By Kelsey Mowatt
Season 18 of “The Ultimate Fighter” came to an end last night in Las Vegas but it also offered an historic marker, with Julianna Pena becoming the first women to win the reality television show. While the men’s bantamweight final also offered a compelling finish, as Chris Holdsworth tapped out Davey Grant, Pena’s impressive stoppage of Jessica Rakoczy was one of the night’s more memorable moments. Not only because of what Pena demonstrated in the Octagon, but because heading into TUF 18, the 24 year-old had lost back-to-back bouts.
“I was done with martial arts. I’m a very competitive person and to lose [my fights before TUF] like I did, it broke my heart and I hid under a rock and died,” Pena relayed to FOX Sports 1 after the event. “I wasn’t getting any calls, so I knew this was my opportunity. Being on The Ultimate Fighter helped me mentally. Those three wins made my confidence go through the roof.”
The pre-fight narrative that accompanied the bantamweight final was that Pena’s clear path to victory was via the ground, considering that Rakoczy is a decorated boxer with a pro record of 31-3. Pena took the 36 year-old pugilist to the mat, however, and punished her for sometime with punches and elbows from the top position.
Although some have already questioned whether the referee Mario Yamasaki could have let the fight extend into round two, he decided to rescue Rakoczy from the blows with just one second to go.
“I realize what’s on the line and I take that very carefully,” noted Pena, who defeated Shayna Bazler and Sarah Moras during TUF 18 to advance to the finals. “It’s a 50-50 thing when you go in there. I’m going in there to kill them right away. It’s either kill or be killed and I want to kill them. I went in there and tried to be as vicious as possible.”
Pena’s memorable performance came at a time when “The Venezuelan Vixen” captured headlines just days ago, by saying that TUF 18 coach and women’s bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey is “pretentious”, After the bout, the 5-2 fighter didn’t back away from her pre-fight comments.
“The point I was trying to draw there is she has her nose in the air and she acts like she’s better than everyone else,” said Pena. ”She went on the show saying she’s being Team Real Mean against Team Fake Nice. If you’re so real why didn’t she tell me to my face that I didn’t deserve to breathe the same air as Shayna Baszler, instead of saying it on camera behind my back? It’s her arrogance, it’s the way she holds herself is the point I was trying to make. It’s the way she acts.”
And what did Rousey’s rival Miesha Tate have to think about Pena’s and Holdsworthy’s wins? Who she coached during the TUF 18 Season?
“I just think they have something that can’t be taught. They have heart and passion. Chris is extremely calculated and precise. How do you beat him? Pena, she’s just tenacious. She respects her opponents, but she doesn’t over-respect them. There’s no one that she thinks she’s going to lose to. They’re both going to go far.”