Julianna Pena believes Amanda Nunes was “forced” into UFC 289 trilogy match: “She had no choice but to fight me”

By Josh Evanoff - April 12, 2023

Former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Julianna Pena is happy to finally have her return booked.

‘The Venezuelan Vixen’ has been out of action since her UFC 277 main event with Amanda Nunes. The bout happened just a few short months after Pena shocked the world against ‘The Lioness’. At UFC 269 in December 2021, the Brazilian shockingly suffered a second-round submission loss to lose her bantamweight title.

However, she would get revenge a few months later. In their rematch last summer, Pena was dominated en route to a lopsided unanimous decision loss. As a result, Nunes was again champion, but her rival wasn’t going away quietly. For months following the loss, Pena called for a longshot trilogy bout.

To her credit, Julianna Pena secured that trilogy bout, as it was announced earlier this week. The former champion will face Amanda Nunes in the main event of UFC 289 in July, and ‘The Lioness’ has admitted she wasn’t expecting the fight. Instead, the Brazilian was hoping for a fight with Irene Aldana.

Pena seems to believe that’s a sign that Nunes wasn’t looking forward to the trilogy matchup. During a recent edition of The MMA Hour, the former champion opined that her rival was forced into the fight. In fact, Pena said the UFC threatened to strip Nunes if the bout didn’t happen.

Julianna Pena, Amanda Nunes

Image Credit: @UFC/Instagram

Julianna Pena discusses Amanda Nunes trilogy fight

“I don’t know why Irene comes up in this conversation at all, we’re 1-1.” Julianna Pena stated on The MMA Hour alongside Ariel Helwani. “This is the biggest women’s mixed-martial-arts fight in history, it’s a trilogy fight, it’s a Rocky story. I think the UFC knows that, they know how to do business and they know how to do big business. They know how to make big fights, that’s the only fight I called for.”

She continued, “…The brass told me directly she does not want to fight me, they said ‘You have to fight Irene’, I said, ‘I’m not fighting Irene, I’m fighting Amanda, when she decides to take that fight, you let me know’… They said that if she didn’t fight against me, that she would be stripped. So, she had no choice but to fight me. She doesn’t want to fight me. They told me she doesn’t want to fight me, and she’s being forced to fight me because this is the only fight that makes sense.”

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Amanda Nunes Julianna Pena UFC UFC 289