Julianna Peña lay unconscious in the Octagon on Saturday at UFC 16 on ESPN, the result of a Germain de Randamie guillotine choke in the third round.
The Mt. Spokane graduate’s eyes were still open before her motionless body was awakened.
They widened once Peña realized the mistake she made by exposing her neck to de Randamie, the sport’s second-ranked bantamweight.
“I made a bad, junior varsity move and paid the price,” Peña told The Spokesman-Review after dropping to 5-2 in UFC matches. “She’s a former world champion for a reason.”
Peña, who trains with Spokane’s talent-heavy Sik-Jitsu Fighting Systems team and lives in Chicago, handled the loss – a bout at “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi that was even the first two rounds – with grace.
Much better than she would have before becoming a mother 2½ years ago, she admits.
“You win some, you learn some. Wasn’t my night!,” Peña posted to Instagram hours after the fight. “Massive Congratulations to (de Randamie) it was an honor to compete against you and thank you for your service of upholding the #thinblueline.”
De Randamie is a police officer in the Netherlands.
“When I lost my first (UFC) fight in 2017, I was crushed. I fell into a pit for three days,” Peña said Tuesday.
“Now, as a mother, I want to be able to look back and show my daughter how to deal with defeat. You can’t be married to your wins or your losses in this business.”
Peña, who wears the “Venezuelan Vixen” moniker, got her foot in the business by fighting locally before earning a spot in 2013 on “The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs. Team Tate” reality TV series and winning the finale, vaulting her into the UFC.
She was ranked as high as No. 4 the UFC bantamweight division before Saturday’s loss, her first fight since July 2019, a win over Nicco Montano at UFC Fight Night in Sacramento, California.
A series of injuries and a pregnancy have limited the 31-year-old’s action in recent years, resulting in an average of one fight a year since earning UFC status.
Peña was on the phone with UFC president Dana White on Tuesday, informing the sport’s vocal and candid leader that she will be ready for another big fight as soon as possible.
After suffering a series of bruises in Saturday’s fight, she was issued a two-week medical suspension.
Peña, who was also doing commentary for MMA fights this year, has stuck with a Spokane-based team that includes Sik-Jitsu owner and trainer Rick Little and prominent local fighters Michael Chiesa (Shadle Park) and Sam Sicilia (Mt. Spokane), whose careers were also initially boosted by appearing in “The Ultimate Fighter” series.
“Julianna showed she belongs against the best in the world,” Little said of her bout on Saturday. “She took the fight to the No. 1 woman fighter in the world and barely let victory slip away. The difference of the fight was not skill, but rather experience.
“Her opponent has nearly 100 bouts and Julianna only 15. I feel she will be clearly the best in the world with a few more bouts under her belt.”
Peña returned to Spokane to train for three months last winter.
“We’re like a family. I’ve been with Rick and (Chiesa) for about 12 years,” she said. “So many trainers want to train you a certain way, but I’ll always stick to that gritty Spokane fighting style.”
Chiesa, who is ranked No. 8 in UFC at 170 pounds, had surgery this year and has no upcoming fights officials scheduled. He wants to fight soon, according to reports.
He won his previous fight in January at UFC Fight night in Raleigh, North Carolina, defeating Rafael dos Anjos.
Sicilia (28-17 career record), who was released from UFC in 2017, lost both of his fights in 2019 in Bellator MMA, another professional mix-martial arts organization.
He has not fought in 2020 and doesn’t appear to be on any upcoming fight cards.
Another Sik-Jitsu product, Terrance McKinney (Shadle Park), came tantalizingly close to a UFC contract last summer before losing to Sean Woodson in “Dana White’s Contender Series.”
McKinney lost his next fight to another contender series fighter, Darrick Miner, last October in Nebraska and hasn’t fought since.
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