Julianna Pena shocked mixed martial arts fans worldwide when she defeated the greatest female mixed martial artist of all time, Amanda Nunes, in December last year. However, the new bantamweight champion still feels she has plenty to prove in the rematch this weekend.
Pena will defend her title against Nunes in the main event of UFC 277 this Saturday night — with the bout and all other main card fights streaming live only on ESPN+ in the United States.
Pena entered the first fight at UFC 269 as a massive underdog but showcased her talent, grit, and incredible self-belief during the fight with Nunes, as she eventually went on to win by second-round submission. Pena walked through Nunes’ best shots, exhausting her with constant forward pressure and unexpectedly standing and trading heavy punches with the champ.
Pena not only left that fight as the new UFC women’s bantamweight champion but gained the respect of fans and fighters. Now, as we approach UFC 277, Pena will again enter this fight as a betting underdog but certainly not at the same levels that we saw originally.
Dana White recently compared Pena’s newfound respect to that of Alexander Volkanovski and how it ended up taking him three fights with Max Holloway for fans to give Volkanovski the respect that he deserved.
Speaking with Helen Yee, Pena revealed that she still considers herself as unproven, despite beating Nunes in convincing style.
“I’m just as motivated. I’m just as eager,” Pena explained. “One of the things I’ve been telling myself is that you are not proven until you defend your belt. The mindset I have going into this is that I’m still the challenger. I’m still grinding like I’m the challenger. I am still hungry, I’m still motivated.
“I’m not content with winning the belt the first time. I really want to go out there and show that this belt is mine and that the Julianna Pena era is here to stay.”
Unsurprisingly, many UFC fighters already believe in Pena’s ability and have predicted that she’ll secure a similar result this weekend at UFC 277. Pena recognizes that it’ll be yet another tough fight considering that Nunes has seemingly found a new source of motivation ahead of this rematch.
“It’s going to be a tough fight,” Pena said. “I know that I motivated Amanda and that she’s going to be the best version of Amanda that we’ve ever seen before. I expect it to be 25 minutes of a hard, hard fight and the toughest fight of my life. Every fight is the toughest fight of your life that you say that you have and I know that without a doubt, this is going to be it for me.