UFC bantamweight contender Julianna Pena believes that she has done enough to earn a shot at reigning champion Amanda Nunes, but she also realizes her place in the pecking order depends on the return of a certain Olympic judoka.
“I think [Nunes] just wants to have the money fight. Why defend your title when you can just wait around for whenever Ronda [Rousey] is ready to quit teasing everyone,” Pena told TMZ Sports. “So I think that’s her game plan.”
Pena has won four fights to begin her promotional tenure, including a unanimous verdict over former title challenger Cat Zingano at UFC 200 on July 9. That same night, Nunes captured 135-pound gold with a first-round stoppage of Miesha Tate.
“They can delay me, but they can’t deny me. I’ve had my hand [raised] in the Octagon more than any other female out there and no one deserves this title shot more than I do,” Pena said. That’s how I feel about that. She knows that she needs to fight me. All these girls know that they need to fight me. And I want my belt, so I’m not going to stop until I get it.”
Rousey has maintained a low profile since her second-round knockout loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193 last November. While she was initially expected to make a late 2016 return, it’s also possible that “Rowdy” might not fight until 2017, if at all.
“I think she’s gonna come back before the end of the year. That’s what I’ve been told; that’s what I’ve heard. I’ll believe it when I see it,” Pena said. “If she actually signs on a contract on a dotted line, then I’ll be more of a believer. They say she’s coming back, but we’ll see.”
Pena believes the loss to Holm, the first of Rousey’s career, has instilled doubt in the ex-champion’s mind.
“She’s like the emperor in no clothes. She’s broken a little bit. I just think that no one cares about Ronda Rousey and her fat arms anymore. I guess some people do, and so I guess Amanda’s gonna wait for that title fight and we’ll see how that goes.”