After 17 months on the sidelines, Julianna Pena made a successful return to the Octagon by destroying Milana Dudieva at UFC Fight Night 63 last Saturday (April 4, 2015) in Fairfax, Virginia.
Touted as a future title challenger and great match up for current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women's bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey, Pena says she would love nothing more than to fight for the strap.
But she isn't going to rush it.
In addition, she isn't looking for an easy road to the title by leapfrogging other deserving contenders, as "The Venezuelan Vixen" stated on The MMA Hour (via MMA Fighting) that she would rather build her name up a bit more before a championship fight.
And she also declared once and for all that despite popular belief, she has no beef with "Rowdy."
"No, they put a lot of words into my mouth all the time and they always want to bring up Ronda all the time and they always want to make it look like I have this massive beef with her. My issue is that I want to be a champion one day and I didn't get into this sport to be a top 10 fighter. I feel like the best approach for me is to continue to take fights and build my name out there, build some hype, and to get people interested in a fight like that. That way I can be more financially set up for myself in the future when that time does come, and I think that only happens by taking more fights. And so, It's not like I think I can just leapfrog everybody and just be like, 'oh I beat this girl, give me a title shot.' I'm not crazy, and I'm not selfish like that. So I think it just makes sense to give me a couple more fights, and then if the boss says ‘okay, you're ready,' then I'm ready. I'll do whatever they tell me to."
The injury that kept Pena out for so long was one she suffered in her gym -- Sikjitsu in Spokane, Washington -- after one of her teammates allegedly jumped on her back unexpectedly, causing multiple tears in her knee. Upon receiving the news, UFC President Dana White went ballistic, calling it the of the "most disgusting thing he's ever heard of."
He even went as far as advising Julianna to look for a new place to train. But, as Pena stated, it was all a big misunderstanding and she continues to train with her longtime camp.
"I think it was a big misunderstanding, the whole situation of what happened with my knee. I made the mistake of calling [Dana] bawling my eyes out on the way to the hospital. Of course, after coming off the show he was just frantic, and that was just the way things panned out for me. And it was a little unfortunate, but like I said, it was a misunderstanding. I think that [Dana] knows that it's awesome and cool of me to stay loyal to my gym that's raised me from a baby. You know I've never been anywhere else. I walked into Rick Little's gym having never thrown a punch in my life or having competed in combat sports before, so I think that it's awesome that I've been able to take it this far and to stick with my coach. If you put time on the mat, and you work hard, then it doesn't matter if you're training in a hole in the wall -- which is where we used to train -- or training in the most state-of-the-art facilities, hard work pays off. And mat time is the key, so as I long as I'm doing that, I shouldn't have a problem."
With a quick win under her belt, Pena says she could return to action as soon as possible and mentioned that there could be a potential opponent in line. But, she didn't reveal any juicy details, preferring for it to be finalized before breaking the news.