It’s safe to say that not many have backed up their pre-fight confidence in as emphatic a fashion as Peña did last December. Inside Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, “The Venezuelan Vixen” re-wrote a narrative that many fans and pundits had already proof-read and published.
With a second-round submission, Peña ended the two-division rule and seven-year unbeaten run of consensus female GOAT Amanda Nunes.
Prior to UFC 269, Peña had consistently exonerated an air of confidence that was far from synonymous with opponents of the “Lioness.” While most, including Nunes, branded it delusional and fake, the 32-year-old shocked the world by putting her money where her mouth was.
During a recent appearance on The Pivot Podcast, the 135-pound queen explained where her confidence derived from.
“It was all about never having the opportunity to fight the champion… I got in the division with a purpose, I wanna be a champion. There’s a reason why I’m here, I wanna fight the best in the world. I’ve always gave myself the best chance to win, I just needed an opportunity,” said Peña. “I knew that I was confident. If you’re not confident, you probably shouldn’t be fighting. If you don’t think that you can be a champion, you should, I don’t know, do something else.
“You gotta believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, who’s gonna believe in you?” Peña questioned. “I had put in a ton of work and I was ready to have somebody let me off my chain.”
Peña then took aim at host Ryan Clark. The former American football safety has become a prominent figure in MMA since the start of his ESPN show with Daniel Cormier. In the lead-up to UFC 269, Clark had made his feelings on Peña’s chances, or lack of, pretty clear.
With a face-to-face opportunity to fire back, “The Venezuelan Vixen” didn’t waste the opportunity, laying into the 42-year-old before adding him as the latest stop on her ongoing “I told you so” tour.
“I came here to confront you (Clark) because I just find it absolutely ridiculous,” asserted Peña. “I’m like, ‘Wait a second, what does this guy know about the sport? He doesn’t know anything about MMA.’ And then he was so negative and was like, absolutely sure of himself that I was gonna lose, and I’m like, ‘Man, screw that guy.’ I came here to say, I told you so… You should have known that the machine does a really good job of propelling what they want forward.”
Clark went on to explain that his lopsided prediction came from his belief in Nunes’ abilities, rather than a lack of belief in Peña’s. That’s clearly not an excuse the champ is willing to accept.
Peña: Real Fans Knew I Could Beat Nunes
Setting her sights on her wider scope of detractors, Peña suggested that those who dismissed her chances of dethroning Nunes are ‘fake’ fans.
“Any like, real, true fan, would have known that I absolutely stood a chance,” claimed Peña. “Because I’ve been in the UFC just as long as these girls… Like I said, I was never given the opportunity. I was calling for the opportunity for many years. When you get that shot at the king, you better not miss.
“That was my mindset: Go in there, put the world on notice, let everybody know I’m still here, ‘Hello, remember me,’ give the division a breath of fresh air, and I just had to go in there and do my job,” concluded Peña.
Peña will have the chance to further hammer home that sentiment when she returns to the Octagon for her first title defense later this year.
In her way of further cementing her champion status will be a hungry and vengeful Nunes. The pair will collide following the conclusion of this year’s edition of The Ultimate Fighter, which features both as coaches.
What do you make of Julianna Peña’s assessment of those who doubted her title credentials?