Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) star Julianna Pena is ready to take over from Ronda Rousey as the face of the sports women's division. The bantamweight title contender has made it clear that the new generation of women MMA fighters are as tough and ready to fight 'whoever, wherever'.
Pena is returning to the octagon to take on Valentina Shevchenko in the UFC on Fox 23 headliner on 28 January at the Pepsi Arena in Denver. Rousey's future in the sport is unclear following her second consecutive knockout loss. She lost her bantamweight title to Holly Holm last November and returned to reclaim it after a year on the sidelines from current champion Amanda Nunes. The fight lasted just 48-seconds with the American being knocked out by the Brazilian bantamweight champion.
The 27-year-old's rivalry with Rousey dates back to their days at The Ultimate Fighter, which she won to become the only woman to do so. Pena, who is undefeated since moving to UFC, was keen on a shot at Nunes for the title, with the Brazilian having agreed to the match but Rousey was handed the title bout due to which she agreed to fight Shevchenko at UFC on Fox 23, a fight which she had earlier rejected.
"There's more than one girl MMA fighter out there," Pena told MMA Junkie ahead of her 28 January fight.
"It's a new era now, and I'm ready to take over that spot – the new era of girls who are tough as (expletive) and ready to put it on the line and fight whoever and wherever at any time.
"Why was I going to take another fight with somebody else who was calling me out, who needed me, as opposed to just fighting for the title right away, since I've been beating everybody?" Pena said. "Once Ronda came back, then I agreed that I wanted the fight, and that it makes sense for me," she explained.
However, Pena has made it clear that she will 'raise hell' if she is not handed a title shot after her match against Shevchenko. The American MMA fighter is ranked number two in the official rankings but has failed to be offered a title fight thus far.
"Girls who are coming off knockout [losses] get to fight for the title again. I still have yet to wrap my brain around the fact that I've beaten everybody and still not been able to sniff a title shot," Pena said, as quoted by ESPN.
"If not this time, I will raise hell. I think [UFC president Dana White] knows I'm a firecracker and I definitely don't think he wants to see the wrath that will come if I don't get a title shot.
"I think he definitely knows I'm the clear-cut answer for getting a title shot and I've been the clear-cut answer. If I don't get a title shot, I quit," the undefeated UFC star added.