Julianna Pena made history at UFC 269, beating dominant women’s champion Amanda Nunes, whose reign across two weight classes included five Bantamweight title defenses and two Featherweight defenses. Coming into the fight, few gave Pena much of a chance ... she was a +600 dog against the -1000 Nunes and the fight was practically seen as a formality, just a filler to keep Nunes active while waiting for another legit contender to emerge from the pack.
But, Pena proved all the detractors wrong.
When Nunes’ cardio seemed to wilt in the second round, Pena bit down on her mouthpiece and went for it, gun-slinging with the consensus women’s G.O.A.T. and hurting her on the feet. One minute later, Nunes was on the ground tapping to a rear-naked choke (watch highlights here).
It didn’t look like it was going that way at first. Through round one Nunes stalked Pena like “The Lioness” we knew, and at one point was on top of Pena on the ground with an evil smile on her face like this was just the beginning of an ass whupping of epic proportions.
The tide certainly turned come round two.
“I wasn’t deterred by any means by round one,” Pena said at the UFC 269 post-fight press conference (watch it). “If you’ve seen some of my past fights sometimes it takes a little bit for me to be shook up or woken up for me to get going and make those adjustments going into round two. Round two, round three, I’m just warming up. So for me, I was not deterred by any means.
“In fact, I had her in an armlock for a good portion of that first round,” Pena continued. “The adjustments from my coach were, ‘Keep being you, you’re doing great. Just keep going out there and do exactly what you did there.’”
As far as an immediate rematch goes, Pena sounded down.
“We can do it next week, I’m free next month, two months from now,” she said. “Whenever they want to do it, I’m ready. In all fairness, I’ve been in camp for a year. I think my daughter deserves some well deserved mommy time, a little vacation. After that, if she wants to do a rematch, we can do a rematch. I’ve always been a company girl. Whatever they point me in the direction, I’ll go there. You point, I’ll shoot. So whatever they want to do, we’ll talk about that later. I just want to enjoy the moment right now.”
Rematches were the big thing on her mind in general for the future.
“I think that there’s some rematches that I want to do,” Pena said. “I would like to go down and rematch Valentina Shevchenko. Get that rematch against Germaine De Randamie. I’d love a rematch, if she wants, against Amanda Nunes. Those are the rematches that I have in the peripheral and with that being said, for now I just want to soak it all in and enjoy this moment of becoming the champion tonight.”
But, Pena stoked some controversy online after responding to a reporter who suggested she deserved a “Baddest Mom” belt for winning the mother vs. mother showdown against Nunes.
“UFC absolutely needs to create a new belt for me, and it needs to be ‘The Baddest Mom on the Planet,’” Nunes said. “I’m not trying to take away anything from Amanda, she’s a wonderful mother. But, I gave birth to my daughter and I feel like, for giving birth, I am the first ‘Mom Champ.’ And that to me is a little feather in the cap.”
This set off a firestorm on Twitter, where fans didn’t appreciate Pena implying Nunes wasn’t as mom as it gets.
My least favorite thing that happens when people talk about “mom champs” is discrediting Amanda as a mom just because she was not the one that gave birth. She was still the first mom champ. She’s not any less of a mom for not giving birth.— wholesomeMMA (@wholesome_mma) December 12, 2021
What a disgusting thought to put out into the world. My aunt is the mom of two adopted children. M. O. M.— Scott Fontana (@Scott_Fontana) December 12, 2021
Amanda Nunes is a mom and was champ. She was the first "mom champ" in UFC history. Julianna Pena is the second. Both moms. Period. https://t.co/WjAV3Jkh3s
I agree with her 100% she carried a child in her body and delivered that baby. There is something incredible about that feat alone, and then to restructure your body and train to beat the top woman fighter in the world. What she has done is incredible!!— AJ (@judmanlh) December 12, 2021
literally Amanda Nunes and Cris Cyborg— Alexander K Lee (@AlexanderKLee) December 12, 2021
if you want to make a distinction that you're the first UFC champion to have given birth then... fine, I guess
but Nunes and Cyborg are both mom champs (also Kayla Harrison) https://t.co/mzJZZRFzTa
Removing motherhood from the equation, we recognize Pena’s status as the first woman to trash her body via childbirth and then whip it back into shape for a successful championship run. I don’t know where you’d rank that alongside other impressive mixed martial arts (MMA) rehab feats like completely blowing out both knees or fusing half your vertebrae together, but good for her capturing that particular distinction.
If Nunes takes issue with Pena’s words, perhaps they can work it out over a dozen weeks on a future season of The Ultimate Fighter?
“That’s a great idea,” Pena said. “I’d love to coach The Ultimate Fighter, it’s always been a dream of mine. And yeah, I’d love for [Nunes] to coach alongside me. I got nothing but love and respect for Amanda, I think she’s been a great champion and coaching The Ultimate Fighter would be another dream come true for me.”
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