Julianna Pena has already made history with her most recent performance. Now, she’s aiming to do so in a different fashion, inside and outside of the Octagon.
In recent years, mixed martial arts (MMA) has seen a plethora of odd cornerman choices. Atop the list is names like D.U.S.T. Commander Dale Brown, Mike Perry’s girlfriend Latory Gonzalez, and alleged con artist Joshua Fabia. Pena isn’t quite going down the exact same path by bringing in someone of the names mentioned, but she is doing something different.
Partnering with Antic, Pena is starting a new super-fan Non-Fungible Token (NFT) project, allowing fans to have access to an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champion like never before. Some of the several perks include cornering Pena ahead of her upcoming rematch with Amanda Nunes at UFC 277 on July 30, 2022.
“This is super fan’s opportunity to be a part of my fan club, basically,” Pena told MMA Mania. “You’re going to get to see exclusive video content, pictures, things that — there’s a ton of stuff that I don’t share on my social media, and it’s probably because I’m more on the reserved, private end. But if these people join my superfan club, they’re going to get to see behind-the-scenes access, things that nobody gets the opportunity to see. Really special stuff that I want to be able to share with people that are actually truly a part of my fan club that are actually really down for me 110 percent, people that are committed to buying this and being my fan, and I’ll know that because they’ll be a part of it, they’ll be a member.
“One lucky member on this special drop will get the opportunity to walk out to the Octagon with me,” she continued. “This has never happened before. They’re literally going to get to experience being in the back room, walking out to the corner, being in my corner, and basically being there and experiencing it in real-time. The only thing that they’re not gonna have to do is get punched in the face.”
To decide the winner, Pena has a team who will put together a raffle of all names participating. The one lucky winner will then have to pass a background check.
Other perks of being a part of the “Venezuelan Vixen” fan club include being a part of a cigar club, having the ability to join in on her training camps, and even training directly with her. Hell, Pena is even allowing options such as taking her to the movies, deciding her clothing, walkout song choice, essentially any and all day-to-day life choices.
The winner was announced today (Mon., June 20, 2022) on Twitter.
“Yes [it was difficult],” Pena said of giving up her privacy for the project. “It still weirds me out. But, I gave it a shot the other day and I was like, ‘What shirt should I wear? Notorious B.I.G. or Metallica?’ and the fans said Notorious B.I.G. so the next day I wore [it]. I guess this is gonna be how it is, ya know? Like, what color should I paint my nails? But it’s kinda cool because, to be quite honest, aside from my daughter, and aside from my daily camp, I’m pretty lonely! So to be able to interact with my fans and kind of have them a part of my daily life, I think it’s gonna be pretty cool and I think it’s gonna be welcomed just because I’m bored. I have no balance in my life besides fighting and my daughter. So if I can get a little bit of input from some people who truly, truly care about me and want what’s best for me, then yeah. I’m gonna listen and I’m gonna welcome that and it’s actually kind of exciting.”
At UFC 277, Pena will look to successfully make her first defense as Bantamweight champion. Standing in her way once again is the Featherweight champion whom she defeated to become a titleholder, Nunes.
After a stint as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter 30 (TUF), the pair have had plenty of time to continue assessing each other beyond just the in-cage aspects. For Pena, the expectations of her opponent from fight to fight are going to be massive.
“I’m expecting a million differences from her,” Pena said. “She went back to the team that got her a win with Ronda Rousey, she closed off her camp, she went back and watched that film and saw a lot of great things that she did in the first fight. She saw a ton of successful things that she had done very well. So, I can imagine she’s going to look at that and say, ‘Okay, this is what I did really well, this is where I messed up,’ and try to go fix all those errors that she made.
“Before, they said it’s the best Amanda Nunes that you’ve ever seen in your entire life,” she continued. “She showed up at the weigh-ins, she showed up at the press conference all naked, she wanted to show everybody how hard she was working, and I expected the best Amanda Nunes that there ever was on that night. Now this time, this is gonna be the best Amanda Nunes that we’ve ever seen. Now this time is the one that’s gonna be out of this world incredible amazing. I’m ready for it, I am absolutely ready for it. Anything and everything, I promise you on July 30, I am coming. I am coming.”
Pena’s crowning moment over Nunes at UFC 269 in Dec. 2021 goes down as one of the greatest upsets in the sport’s history. Weathering an early first round storm, the Spokane, Wash., native rallied in round two, exchanging big shots and hurting the then-double champion.
Ultimately, Nunes was overwhelmed by Pena’s relentlessness and was forced to tap after getting stuck in a rear-naked choke submission (watch highlights). With Nunes having made several changes in her preparation for the rematch and not acknowledging the result how Pena anticipated, it only acts as all the more motivation going forward.
“It’s offensive. She literally doesn’t believe that it happened,” Pena said. “She doesn’t want to admit that it happened. She wants to make every single excuse that she can so that she can tell herself, and sleep at night, that that’s not the reality of what happened so that it can get her up in the morning so that she can go and perform the next time and the next go around. So, she doesn’t believe that it happened, she’s not accepting it, and it’s offensive because I did everything I said I was going to do. I said I was going to do this and then I went out and I did it and you’re still not accepting it. Possession is nine-tenths of the law, this belt is mine so come and get it. You want this? You want me to drop my swords? Come and take ‘em. I’m ready.”
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