Julianna Pena claims that Amanda Nunes was forced to put her title on the line in a trilogy bout, or risk being stripped of the UFC bantamweight championship.
Emanating from Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Pena will close out her rivalry with the reigning women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes at UFC 289 on June 10. Eight weeks out from her opportunity to recapture UFC gold, Juliana Pena spoke with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour to discuss how the bantamweight title tilt came together after it appeared the two had gone their separate ways following their UFC 277 showdown last July.
“This has always been the fight that I wanted,” Pena said. “There’s no surprise on my end. I said that I was going to fight her, that it was going to be a trilogy fight, and that was the only fight it’s the only fight that makes sense.”
Continuing her conversation with Helwani, Pena claimed that the promotion came to her with an offer to fight No. 5 ranked contender Irene Aldana. Outright refusing the offer, ‘The Venezuelan Vixen’ was more than ready to sit back and wait for Amanda Nunes.
“We’re 1-1. It’s the biggest women’s mixed martial arts fight in history. It’s a trilogy fight. It’s a ‘Rocky’ story. I think the UFC knows that. They know how to do business. They know how to do big business and make big fights. It’s the only fight that I called for and I said, you know what? If you don’t want to fight me, Amanda, which the brass told me directly that she does not want to fight me, they said, ‘You have to fight Irene [Aldana]. I said I’m not fighting Irene, I’m fighting Amanda. When she decides to take that fight, you let me know because that’s the only fight that I’m taking.”
‘The Venezuelan Vixen’ also claimed that the promotion had threatened to strip Amanda Nunes of her bantamweight title if she refused the trilogy bout with Julianna Pena.
“They said that if she didn’t fight against me that she would be stripped and so she had no choice, but to fight me. She doesn’t want to fight me. They told me she doesn’t want to fight me and she’s being forced to fight me because this is the only fight that makes sense.”
Julianna Peña says Amanda Nunes was "forced" to fight her 😬 #TheMMAHour
"She had no choice but to fight me. She doesn’t want to fight me. They told me she doesn’t want to fight me."
▶️ https://t.co/EyV9xfJg2z pic.twitter.com/lcBVajaXnJ
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) April 12, 2023
Julianna Pena Excited to Compete in History-Making UFC Bout
Despite being 1-1, few fans were clamoring for a third fight between the two with many calling Pena’s shocking second-round submission of Nunes at UFC 269 nothing more than a fluke. That is an admittedly unfair assessment of Pena’s title-winning performance, but ‘The Lioness’ revealed that she had done minimal training for the fight which likely led to her temporary downfall. The fact that Nunes bounced back with a dominant five-round performance in their UFC 277 rematch was all that most fans wanted or needed to see in order to write off Pena’s success in their first title tilt.
Regardless if fans were clamoring for it or not, Nunes vs. Pena III will go down this summer as the promotion makes its long-awaited return to Canada, and ‘The Venezuelan Vixen’ is ready to capitalize on the opportunity in the history-making matchup.
“Amanda Nunes and I have shared 35 minutes in the Octagon together and she had to change her entire style in order to beat me,” Pena continued. “And I think knowing that she doesn’t want to fight me and her saying to [the UFC] that she doesn’t want to fight me right now, it just makes it all the more sweeter for why we have to fight. Because we are 1-1. This is the first trilogy. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t know of another women’s trilogy that’s happened in the bantamweight division before.
“This is the first. It’s the biggest in my opinion and it’s the only fight that makes sense, and with that being said, allow me those same opportunities. She is finally and I thank her for that. I credit her for allowing me to get my belt back and to solidify who the best in the world is.”