Julianna Pena, who fights for the right to challenge Amanda Nunes for the UFC 135lb championship this weekend, has urged the champion to put the breaks on a mooted move to 145lb as she has unfinished business in her own weights class.
After taking the bantamweight title belt from Miesha Tate then successfully defending the title against Ronda Rousey at the end of the year, Nunes’ short but spirited reign has led to calls for her to move up to featherweight and unify the belts.
Yet Pena, who headlines this weekend’s UFC on Fox 23 card at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado against Valentina Shevchenko, insists talk of the Brazilian’s utter dominance is unfounded.
Undefeated in the UFC, having won The Ultimate Fighter and then claiming back-to-back wins over top contenders Jessica Eye and Cat Zingano, Pena believes she’s one win away from claiming the belt for herself.
“Being that Cat Zingano beat the brakes off Nunes, and I dominated Zingano, I think it’s fair to say I can hang with anybody that walks at 135lb inside that Octagon,” Pena told MMA Junkie.
Nunes has expressed her desires to challenge the winner of Holly Holm vs. Germaine de Randamie, who will fight in the main event of UFC 208 to crown the first women’s UFC featherweight champion.But Pena insists that’s premature.
“There’s a lot of competition left at 135lb that she should maybe consider before trying to run to another division,” Pena said. “God willing, I get past this fight, I’m unbeaten in the UFC, and if I was the champion, I’d want to clean out my own division before going to a different division.
“If there was an undefeated girl fighting at 135lb, I’d want to test my skills against her. But if that’s not the way she wants it, as long as all you guys know what the truth is, that’s all that matters.”
For now, however, Pena has her hands full and Shevchenko, who is herself coming of a career highlight marquee win over former champion Holm last summer.