It took one of the most grueling fights of the season, but Team Tate is back on top. Raquel Pennington outdueled Team Rousey's Jessamyn Duke over 15 back and forth minutes to secure a 3-2 lead on Wednesday night's episode of The Ultimate Fighter 18, much to the displeasure of coach Ronda Rousey, who flipped Miesha Tate a little something extra instead of shaking her rival's hand in the post-fight glow.
Now Team Tate's No. 1 pick, Julianna Pena, returns for her weekly Q&A to offer her thoughts on the brawl, reveal a few behind-the-scenes nuggets from the episode, and answer your questions in this week's TUF Mailbag. If you have any questions you'd like to ask our "Venezuelan Vixen" for next week, feel free to write them in the comments below. Now without any further ado, let's break down the episode.
Al-Shatti: So first off, that fight between Raquel and Jessamyn, that was a hell of a fight. What was the feeling in the gym at that point? Was everybody going wild?
Pena: I was going wild! (Laughs.) I wanted [Raquel] to follow up. There's times where she had [Jessamyn] frazzled. There's times where she was hitting her so hard that it was kind of rocking her socks a little bit, and I just wish that she would've stayed on her. But she separated and let up, and I was like, ‘What are you doing?! Go forward, forward, forward!' Flipping out.
Al-Shatti: Anthony Gutierrez called it the best female fight he'd ever seen in person. Do you agree?
Pena: I don't know. Put it this way, I want fight of the season, and I want sub of the season. I want ‘em all, so screw those girls' fight. (Laughs.) No, I'm kidding. That was a good fight. The whole house was pretty ecstatic. What a brawl!
Al-Shatti: I'm curious, who did you score it for?
Pena: I thought it went to Raquel. For the most part the fight was pretty dang even. I actually like how Jessamyn finished strong, but the only reason why I give the advantage to Raquel is because of damage. Raquel had a pretty nasty cut on her eyebrow, but otherwise she barely had a scratch on her. And Jessamyn looks like she got beat with a bat in the face. She looked f--ked up.
Al-Shatti: Was there a general feeling on Team Rousey that Jessamyn got robbed?
Pena: Yeah, absolutely. Some of the people on her team were saying that they were pretty upset at the decision. Davey (Grant) and Michael (Wootten) thought that she had won the fight.
Al-Shatti: I believe it. Well then backtracking a bit, how was the atmosphere for the fights at Green Valley Ranch? Was there less tension this time around than at the Red Rock?
Pena: They don't show what really happened, but yeah, there was less tension for this episode. I guess.
Al-Shatti: Okay, well now I have to ask. What really happened?
Pena: I got, like, ambushed by a drunk (Team Rousey assistant coach) Marina (Shafir), telling me that if I didn't choose a better side, that when the show comes out, everything in my life was going to be a lot more terrible, media-wise. Basically she was threatening me.
Al-Shatti: Wait, what? So she was trying to recruit you?
Pena: No she didn't want me to choose Team Rousey. She was just basically saying, like, ‘know where your loyalty is at.' That type of deal. Meaning, because I'm on Miesha's team, if I continue to be on Miesha's team, it's going to be bad for me, media-wise. Like I'm going to get ripped apart or something. I don't know. She was being drunk and weird, and I was like, whatever, you don't know me. It was crazy.
Al-Shatti: Was there more to the Anthony Gutierrez prank? Because it felt anticlimactic.
Pena: Yeah, he was, like, trying to apologize to me for being mean the whole season, for however long the season had been going on. So he was throwing those things at my door, apologizing over and over. Like, ‘Julianna! I'm sorry!' Over and over, he just kept doing it. Then he finally came to my door and was like, ‘I just wanted to tell you that I'm really sorry.' He was wasted. He shut the door, then he just burst through the door and jumped on my bed.
We were all trying to go to bed and he was just being so drunk and obnoxious that we'd planned the next day to just mess his crap up, wreck his house. So we went and jumped in there, threw his bed over, and then a couple hours later we went back and did it again. He kept going back to sleep then he'd wake up, then back to sleep. Every time he went back to sleep we'd just come in there and wreck his house. I think we did it three times.
Al-Shatti: At the end of the episode, Ronda Rousey flipped the bird when Miesha Tate tried to shake her hand? Did everyone see that or was that just for the cameras?
Pena: I think that was just the cameras. I didn't see that. But I had known that Ronda was saying things to her, Ronda being like, ‘You smiling at my girl's pain is another reason why I'm gonna f--king destroy you.' Like, I saw that, so I'd known that she was running her mouth and constantly saying stuff. But I didn't know she'd flipped her off.
Al-Shatti: What are your thoughts on that?
Pena: You know, what do you say to somebody who's like that? I like her spirit, I like her attitude. They don't like to lose. Nobody likes to lose. That's cool that she's very ‘about' her team. On the flip side, I feel like it's classless to act so -- what's the word? -- like, with such big bravado. The girl is like, ‘I'm the f--king s--t, so I can't lose.' She doesn't know how to lose gracefully, and that's okay because she's the champion and there's a reason for that. I like her style. However, I don't think it would've killed her to be a little more professional.
steele1324 asks: When you are in the ring in combat, do you actually listen to everyone outside of the ring shouting "advice"? Do you listen to what anyone from either fighter's side shouts? Does it even make any difference if there is shouted advice or not?
Pena: It does make it a difference. The things that you can do that they're screaming, if they're truly available, then you hear that. They can see things that you can't see. On the flip side, they can't feel what I can feel. Therefore, if they scream at me and I hear them (telling me) to do something, but I think in my mind that it's impossible to do at that given point in time, then I wont do that. Because I've done that in the past. When I first fought (Sarah) Moras, I listened to what my corner was saying and went for something that I shouldn't have went for. At that moment in time I could feel that it wasn't the smart thing to do. And I did it, trying to listen to my corner, and it cost me the fight. I think you've got to take what they're saying with a grain of salt because they're not in there. They can't feel what you can feel. They're just shouting what they think is going to be the answer, and sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.
But yes, you do (hear the other corner too). You can hear what they're saying. Like, if your corner is screaming, ‘Guillotine! Guillotine!' Then (the other side) is saying, ‘Watch the guillotine! Watch the guillotine!' Like, oh you ruined it. Now I'm not going to go for a guillotine because that's what she's expecting.
steele1324 asks: A couple of behind the scenes questions. 1. Was there any kind of a set daily activity schedule for the fighters? 2. How obtrusive were the cameras?
Pena: There was a list across from the refrigerator that had the whole week planned out. And there was two practices a day. So when you wake up, you go to first practice. Drive 30 minutes to the gym, drive 30 minutes back. Hang out for a couple hours, then go to your next practice. Then when you come back from that practice, you're free to do whatever you want. Usually we eat, rest, swim, tan; whatever, then go back to practice. Sunday, that was lazy day. You could do whatever you wanted. They had masseuses available and chiropractors available, at our fingertips whenever we wanted.
[The cameras] weren't that obtrusive. At first, when there are cameras in the bathroom, you kind of, like, flip out a little bit. That can take some serious getting used to. Like, you changed in the shower with the door closed so they can't see you. But they can't see you. They can only see who's walking into the bathroom, just to see if there's anybody in there, but they can't see you changing and stuff like that.
Sometimes I felt like, when I was having an important conversation, or something that I felt was important, they weren't there. Like, they weren't there to catch it and I was like, ‘Man, they really should be catching this right now.' And then other times it'd be something not so important and they'd be, like, in your face. Now you guys come. So it was kind of a happy medium. They weren't too bad. I actually got along more with the crew than with the castmates in the house. They weren't allowed to talk to me, but that was perfect because I just needed to do the talking. I was just sitting there hamming it up with them. It was way better.
Do you have any questions for Julianna Pena? Ask it in the comments below and she'll answer you next week. The Ultimate Fighter 18 airs every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1. Portions of this interview have been edited for concision.