Peña seeks to back up shocker in UFC title rematch vs. Nunes

Jul 28, 2022, 8:51 PM | Updated: Jul 29, 2022, 8:52 am

FILE - Julianna Pena, right, throws a right to Amanda Nunes during a women's bantamweight mixed mar...

FILE - Julianna Pena, right, throws a right to Amanda Nunes during a women's bantamweight mixed martial arts title bout at UFC 269, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in Las Vegas. Peña stunned pretty much everyone but herself when she took the bantamweight title from two-division champion Amanda Nunes in one of the biggest upsets in UFC history. (AP Photo/Chase Stevens, File)

(AP Photo/Chase Stevens, File)

DALLAS (AP) — Julianna Peña stunned pretty much everyone but herself when she took the bantamweight title from two-division champion Amanda Nunes in one of the biggest upsets in UFC history.

“I’m the champion of the world. This is what I wanted,” Peña said. “Now there’s nothing left to do but the job itself. And that’s let people know who I am. This is my opportunity to show people who I am and kind of let them get to know me.”

Her first defense of the title in the 135-pound division will be a rematch against Nunes at UFC 277 on Saturday night, and the former bantamweight champion wants back the belt that she had held more than five years before her 12-fight winning streak was snapped last December.

Nunes (21-5) said she wasn’t properly prepared for that fight at UFC 269 because of knee issues that affected her cardio training.

While Nunes didn’t want to delay again after being forced to withdraw from a scheduled August bout because of a positive COVID-19 test, she also thought she was ready. But she got hurt and tired in the second round, then tapped out when unable to escape a rear naked choke.

“It was the challenge that I needed,” Nunes said. “I went without a challenge for so long, now I’m finally like getting into the position that I like to feel a threat. These are the moments that I shine in the most.”

Peña-Nunez isn’t the only rematch during UFC’s first fight night in Dallas since 2018.

Brandon Moreno (19-6) and Kai Kara-France (24-9), the top two flyweight contenders, will fight for an interim title in the division. Moreno won a unanimous decision over Kara-France in December 2019.

Deiveson Figueiredo regained the flyweight belt from Moreno with a unanimous decision in a trilogy fight in January. But because of a hand injury for Figueiredo, there will be an interim champion instead of a fourth fight now against Moreno.

“I don’t want to wait. … I just wanted to fight,” said Moreno, who fought only once in 2021 — the middle fight against Figueiredo when he became UFC’s first Mexican-born champion.

Nunes, still the champion in the 145-pound women’s featherweight division, and Peña were coaches on “The Ultimate Fighter” for the 30th season of the reality TV show that just aired its final episode.

That only created more animosity between the two fighters, even though there is a shared respect.

“Without Amanda and without me, there would be no headlining of this UFC 277. We are the two best female fighters in the division in mixed martial arts,” Peña said. “If I didn’t have Amanda and if Amanda didn’t have me, then none of this would exist. So I absolutely respect her and honor that fact because it takes two to tango.”

When asked what she learned about Peña while taping “The Ultimate Fighter,” Nunes responded that she was weird and always on her phone.

Peña, who said she caught Nunes watching some of her team’s practices, wanted to pull off an epic prank during the show. But UFC President Dana White squashed plans that included Johnny Knoxville and a giant bear.

While calling Peña a tough opponent, Nunes said she is definitely 100% for the rematch. She is even considered by most the favorite to win this time, though not by nearly as much as those 10-1 odds she was favored before the pre-Christmas loss in Las Vegas.

“I want the belt back,” Nunes said. “I miss the belt.”

Kara-France has gone 4-1 since his first slugfest against Moreno, who said his opponent appears to have more confidence in the octagon.

“Better decisions. That makes a fighter very dangerous,” Moreno said. “I’m expecting, maybe not the same fight than the last fight in 2019, but I’m expecting fireworks.”

A three-fight winning streak for Kara-France includes a first-round win over former champion Cody Garbrandt and a victory over contender Askar Askarov.

“I stopped chasing the ‘becoming the champion’ and started believing it,” Kara-France said. “I’m at the stage where it doesn’t even matter who I’m fighting. …. It’s about yourself, and I’m just more than ready to become a world champion.”


More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

Peña seeks to back up shocker in UFC title rematch vs. Nunes