LAS VEGAS — Amanda Nunes had been the UFC women’s bantamweight champion for mere minutes Saturday night before the question came: Who will you fight next? Ronda Rousey, perhaps?
Rousey, the face of the UFC, hasn’t fought since her Nov. 14 loss to Holly Holm, but some believe she’ll return soon, after she finishes movie commitments and needed time away from the sport. She is the No. 2-ranked challenger, though, and Holm is No. 1, so a rematch between them makes sense, leaving the door open for someone else to fight Nunes.
Julianna Pena wants to be that person.
“I don’t know what else I have to do, you know?” Pena said at the UFC 200 post-fight press conference at T-Mobile Arena. “… With all due respect to Amanda, I’m very happy for you and congratulations on your big night, and with all due respect to Miesha (Tate), thank God I don’t have to fight my friend. But it couldn’t have worked out better for me in the situation, and so I’m ready to fight for the title, and I’m ready to go and get what’s mine.
“I have a champion mindset already. I eat, breathe, sleep, wake up — it’s constantly on the brain. It’s all I think about. And all I’m missing is that championship belt around my waist.”
Pena entered Saturday as the No. 5 challenger and took down Cat Zingano, the No. 3, in a unanimous decision. Counting her time in The Ultimate Fighter, Pena has won seven consecutive UFC fights and believes that merits her a shot at a title that has changed hands four times in eight months.
Nunes, for her part, said she will fight anyone — Rousey, Pena, etc. — the UFC puts in front of her. “I’m the champion,” she boasted.
With that comes a target on her back, and Pena took the first shot.
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