Julianna Pena lambasts UFC 297 co-headliner ‘snooze fest’: ‘Nobody won, the fans lost’

Julianna Peña was far from dazzled by what she saw from UFC 297’s co-main event.

“It was a snooze fest. I was not impressed. Not impressed with their performance, as my friend Georges St-Pierre likes to say,” Peña said Monday on The MMA Hour.

“Nobody won. The fans lost. Literally, there was no winner.”

A former UFC women’s bantamweight champion, Peña watched from home as her division crowned a new champion at UFC 297 following the retirement of Amanda Nunes. Peña was expected to be part of the vacant title bout, however injury prevented her from competing, so instead Raquel Pennington and Mayra Bueno Silva faced off this past Saturday in Toronto, with Pennington ultimately winning a unanimous decision to complete her 11-year journey to the belt and become the oldest female champion in UFC history at age 35.

The fight didn’t exactly blow away the fans inside Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, however, and 10 of Pennington’s last 11 UFC wins have come in decisions. Peña was not surprised.

“So we’re on The Ultimate Fighter house, [Pennington] has to fight the semifinal fight against Jessica Rakoczy, a very decorated eight-time world champion boxer,” Peña said. “She can’t get past Jessica Rakoczy and Dana White tells her, ‘Throw your hands, throw your hands,’ and she’s like, ‘Nah, I’m not going throw my hands.’ And then when she loses the fight to Rakoczy, she says, ‘Well, Dana was trying to tell me to throw my hands and I didn’t listen to him.’ And then what did you hear? Ten years later, she’s saying, ‘Well, Dana wanted me to throw my hands more and he wanted me to press up and throw my hands.’ Some things never change, some things never change. I mean, golly, you think you’d get a clue.

“I don’t understand. I’ve never seen anything like it. I really haven’t. It’s like some weird thing where she just, like, doesn’t want to actually fight. She just wants to be glued to you. I don’t know if you saw that fight with Holly Holm where it was just up against the fence the entire time, in the clinch the entire time. I mean, it’s a good way to stay safe. … But you would think that she would listen and kind of get a clue from the boss, and say he wants you to throw your hands, so just do it. Do what he’s telling you to do. She doesn’t listen to her corner, so it’s almost like, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

“She just doesn’t get that fire lit underneath her butt,” Peña continued. “She doesn’t have that eye of the tiger, that shark that smells blood in the water. She’s not a killer. She’s doesn’t have that killer instinct. But I know somebody that does — and her name is Juliana ‘The Venezuelan Vixen,’ the Peña power.”

Peña’s relationship with Pennington stretches back to the pair’s time on The Ultimate Fighter 18 in 2013, a season which saw Peña ultimately emerge as tournament champion. The two did not get along on the show and that animosity has only persisted in the 11 years since.

Peña said on Monday that she is finally healthy and back to training. She promised that she has already spoken with UFC officials about her return and is eyeing a date in either June or July to settle her business with Pennington for the belt. As the only woman to defeat Nunes since 2014, Peña remains one of the most decorated fighters in the UFC’s current women’s bantamweight division, and she vowed to kick Pennington into retirement once they meet.

After that, she’s ready to carry women’s bantamweight into its new era in earnest.

“Whether it was Mayra, whether it was Raquel, it don’t matter. The only one that makes me bleed my own blood is me, OK? So it doesn’t matter who I fight,” Peña said. “However, I know as a businesswoman that Mayra would’ve been the bigger fight because she likes to verbally spar back and she’s more interesting in that sense, and Raquel doesn’t say anything. And that’s why I refer to her as just a boring block of wood, because it’s just there. You know what I mean? It’s like the turtle on top of the pole. It’s like, how did the turtle climb the pole? Well, it just got there but you don’t know how it got there. Somebody put it there.

“It’s not that it got there on its own. It’s that there was no one else. There was literally no one else. The turtle’s on top of the pole because somebody placed you there. And that’s kind of how it is with Raquel. You’re just there because there was no one else. Not because you’re just this really exciting person that the fans are just dying to see you fight. That’s not the case. So it would’ve obviously been better with Mayra. But just wait — wait your turn, wait your turn in line, you’ll get the opportunity. Just wait a little more. She’s right now just a little puppy dog, but she’ll get better. And when she does, I’ll be ready for her.”

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