Season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter was a big deal. It marked the first time that the show had featured female competitors. That season’s winner at bantamweight was ‘The Venezuelan Vixen,’ Julianna Pena.
Officially entering into the promotion in November 2013 by winning in the finals over Jessica Rakoczy with a first-round TKO, Pena would, unfortunately, suffer a torn ACL afterward that kept her out of action until April 2015. From there, she would keep her unbeaten UFC record intact by picking up dominant wins over Milana Dudieva, future UFC flyweight title challenger Jessica Eye, and former UFC bantamweight title challenger Cat Zingano.
It wouldn’t be until Pena’s last and most recent outing in January 2017 where she would suffer defeat when competing in her first main event spot opposite the now flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko. ‘The Bullet’ would end up securing the win with a second-round armbar.
Following the third loss of her 11-fight career, Pena would then reveal that she was pregnant and she’s been living the mom-life ever since while getting into the commentary side of the sport for Combate Americas.
Earlier this week, the former top contender took to Instagram to address her future as a fighter.
“Not gonna lie. Finding the balance between being a new #mommy and a full time #mma #fighter and commentator🎙, while trying to hold the #house down has not been the easiest of tasks🙅🏽♀️
🤱🏽Women who have kids 👼🏼, take care of the house🏡, and work full time jobs are #superwomen 🦸🏻♀️and we do not get enough credit if you ask me! Some of y’all expectations are just wayyy too high! There are many other #mommy #mma #fighters that I see #makeitwork and they give me #inspiration and #motivation everyday to believe in myself because I know I can do it too! So… no excuses!! I know I am far overdue for a #fistfight! I shall find my way back to the #octagon soon but in the meantime, I can’t wait to break in these new @gracieuniversityhq #puffies I just bought ! You can’t tell by the look on my face because that’s my, ‘I’m ready for war’ face, but It’s the little things in life these days that get me #pumped ! Let’s get it ! #ceasargraciejiujitsuwhat”
If the 29-year old Pena does end up returning at some point in the near future, she would be a welcome addition to a 135-pound UFC weight class that is in need of fresh contenders.
Drake Riggs is an MMA writer who specializes in feature pieces, the women's fight scene, lists, news coverage, and rankings. He has been a passionate fan of MMA ever since 2009. Drake has most notably written for BJPenn.com, FanSided MMA, The Body Lock, Cageside Press, Sherdog, and MMA Today. He is also a longtime fan of the NFL's Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars.