Julianna Pena is not a fan of one of UFC 297’s title fights.
After Amanda Nunes retired and relinquished her belt, Raquel Pennington (15-8 MMA, 12-5 UFC) and Mayra Bueno Silva (10-2-1 MMA, 5-2-1 UFC) will battle for the vacant women’s bantamweight title in the Jan. 20 co-main event at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
Former champion Peña (11-5 MMA, 7-3 UFC) was expected to be one-half of the title fight, but couldn’t compete due to injury.
“I’m sorry that you guys are going to be force-fed this horrible interim title fight,” Peña said on “The MMA Hour.” “It’s going to be interim. They’re just keeping it warm. They’re belt warming until I come back. Mama’s coming back, so apologies for the fact that I cannot compete, but I will be back fighting. My next fight will be for a title, so whoever wins between those two chicks, I’ll be fighting the winner.”
Peña and Pennington were participants on Season 18 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” but never crossed paths. Peña won the show. Since she lost to Nunes in May 2018, Pennington has won six of her past eight and five straight overall to earn another title fight.
Peña praised her growth.
“I’m going to give a little bit of a shine to Raquel because I feel like over time, she has gotten better and better as time goes on,” Peña said. “She’s definitely a durable fighter. She’s capable of being a champion and getting that belt, so I would say that Raquel has the veteran-ness on her side.”
Peña and Silva recently traded barbs. While Peña is not necessarily rooting for Silva to win, she thinks the build-up with her would be a lot more entertaining than with Pennington.
“Here’s the thing: At least Mayra is like a dance partner, you know what I mean?” Peña said. “Because look, at the end of the day – love me, hate me whatever, I want you guys to be invested in my success. I want you to be invested in my failures. It doesn’t matter. I need you guys to watch the fights. I want you guys to watch me fight.
“And the point of the banter (and) back-and-forth is so that I can have a dance partner, so that I can make it more exciting so that people are going to want to watch. With Mayra, I have that in her because she’s got a mouth, I’ve got a mouth, and we can go back and forth. With Raquel, it’s kind of like crickets. For me, it’d be better if Mayra wins so that way we can make it more exciting for all of you guys.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 297.