We're eight episodes into The Ultimate Fighter 18, and for reasons beyond my understanding, the UFC elected to run a clip show instead of the final two quarterfinal fights. So since we need to keep this train rolling, and I'm sure you aren't interested in rehashing the same questions, let's do a little something different today.
First we have the triumphant return of the Mega-Mailbag. Team Tate's No. 1 pick Julianna Pena has been gracious enough to answer a slew of your burning questions on anything and everything, from Melendez-Sanchez to free food in the TUF house. Then we'll move on to the lightning round, because the only way to learn more about a person is by knowing which Ninja Turtle is their favorite. (There's only one right answer, folks.)
Of course, if you missed out on all the action this week, leave a question in comments below. Julianna will answer the best ones next week. Now with that said, let's jump in.
Al-Shatti: Okay, so before we start, it's been eight weeks now. I want to know: Is it still weird to watch yourself on TV?
Pena: Yes. Absolutely.
Al-Shatti: Has it gotten any better?
Al-Shatti: (Laughs.) Has it gotten worse?
Pena: No, it's gotten... okay, I guess I'll say it's gotten a little better. But no, it's really... because every week you still don't know what they're going to put out there, what scenes they're going to capture. So when I see myself on TV now, I pause it and critique it, like, ‘I look so nasty here.' It's not good. (Laughs.) I don't like it. It's almost getting to the point where I don't care about Wednesdays and I don't even want to watch myself. I'm like, oh no, it's time. It's sad. (Laughs.)
Al-Shatti: Dang. (Laughs.) Well our first fan question comes from the gentleman with the best Twitter handle of the day.
@SxyPanda asks: Gil and Diego. Do you ever fear this happening in a fight? A cut like that... a war like that?
Pena: No. I mean, you're going into the fight expecting the unexpected. You're obviously putting yourself in that line of fire, you're taking that risk. So, you're obviously okay with that, and if that happens, if you've got the warrior spirit, you're not going to stop. Diego is a warrior. He wasn't going to let a little cut stop him from doing what he needs to do. That cut can happen to anybody, so I guess you fear that a little bit. But I think you know that's going to happen, so you're okay with that or else you wouldn't sign yourself up for a cage fight.
@CornerTalker asks: Where were you when #SanchezMelendez fought at #ufc166?
Pena: I was at my work watching them with my team and screaming at the top of my lungs on top of my chair. Like, standing up on top of it. (Laughs.) No, I wasn't standing on top of it. I was on my knees, but it's a high chair anyway. I don't know. I was flipping out. I was in Spokane, Washington at Spikes Phillys and More.
I was off (work) though. It's terrible when I watch the UFC fights when I'm working. I flip out, like scream while I'm walking around the whole restaurant. I feel like whether I'm working or not, I get the people going, man.
Bunker707 asks: Going into the semis, did you feel close enough to your team where you wanted to fight someone on Ronda's team? Or were you thinking of going against the person who was going to give you the best chance to advance?
Pena: Going into the semifinals I was thinking the whole point is to take down the other team, so I wanted nothing more than do that. I wanted to fight somebody on Ronda Rousey's team, absolutely.
@RichardHayZeus asks: How did your family take you being a fighter?
Pena: How did they take it? They didn't take it very well. (Laughs.) No, I'm kidding, that's a total joke. At first they didn't take it very well. Now they're totally accepting, totally have my back, and just want to see me do great because they believe in me and they know I got that warrior spirit. They're totally supportive. They're always bragging about me and they think it's so cool, so it makes things a lot easier when I know they have my back like that.
steele1324 asks: It seems to me, so far (not counting your fight vs. Shayna) that Ronda chose the fighters with obvious physical advantages of height and strength, while Miesha went for people she already knew (you, Roxy) and intangible things. Miesha chose some fight matchups that looked like mismatches from the start. For instance, Rackozy was far stronger than Roxy, and Wooten longer and more versatile than Hill. I think Miesha's choices have been riskier. What do you think?
Pena: Miesha's choices have been risky, but at the same time, it's hard to say. What would people have expected? For Roxanne to fight Peggy Morgan, the biggest 135'er? Would that have been a better match-up? I don't think it would have. Her choices... maybe she could've put different matches together at different times, but they were riskier, definitely.
Jamesglory asks: Can you please describe what it is like to be near the two coaches when they are staring at each other with bad intentions and hate. Can you feel their built up violence? Is it as bad as the media are trying to make out? Or worse?
Pena: I hate when I see those things, like, ‘Oh, it's just fake,' and blah, blah, blah. No. They really, really do not like each other. I thought that was apparent, but some people are just not convinced. I don't know what it's going to take for them to understand that this is as real as it gets.
But seeing it in person makes me want to explode in laughter. I can't stop laughing, I think it's so crazy. (Laughs.) It's funny. But it's also crazy that it's actually going to happen soon, you know? And oh my gosh, (when you're between them) you just feel like someone is stabbing you or something. (Laughs.)
Bboyawall asks: I am impressed at you desire to finish fights. How do you feel you stack up against some of the other girls in the house, as well as girls in UFC/Invicta FC? Also was there any part of the TUF house you missed after it was over?
Pena: I'll fight anyone. If the price is right and I feel like it's going to do me some good to get in a scrap with any person that they throw at me, I'm going to take that into consideration then I'll make my decision from there. But for the most part, I think that I can pretty much compete against any 135'er there is and hold my own, so I think I stack up well against them.
And yeah, (in the TUF house,) at first you don't like the fact that you're away from all your family and friends, and you're cut off from the outside world. So if a little bit of that could've been changed, it would've been more manageable. But at the same time, I did kinda miss the time that I got to just focus on myself. It was Me Time, and it was Me Time all the time. You didn't have to deal with the outside dramas and pressure that people have to live with on a daily basis. I missed that kind of seclusion once I was out of the house. Like, man, it was kind of nice to just work out, focus on myself, and eat really good food for free.
And now, in the spirit of good fun, let's close this sucker out with a lightning round of some of your most random questions. (To preserve space and sanity, questions are bolded, Julianna's answers are unbolded.)
Favorite male fighter? Fedor.
Favorite fight? Fedor vs. that one big, huge Asian guy. The one where he armbarred that guy who was freakin' humongous. Hong Man Choi!
Favorite female fighter? Gina Carano.
Breakfast, lunch or dinner? Dinskie.
If you had a million dollars how would you spend it? I would buy my mom a new house. Actually, scratch that. I'll buy her whatever she wants.
If you could meet two people living or dead, who would it be? One man, and one woman. Oprah! And a man... Kanye West.
SNES or Sega Genesis? Super Nintendo. But if you ask between those and a Nintendo 64, then I'd have to choose that. Tetris 64, oh, that's my game.
McDonalds or Burger King? Man... like a hybrid of both. I ain't hatin'.
Dogs or cats? Dogs! Dogs. Dogs.
Favorite Ninja Turtle? Leonardo.
Boom, that's the right answer. If you could speak to one type of animal, what would it be? I would want to speak to a lion! (Laughs.)
What's a skill you have that most people don't know about? I like to cook.
Most embarrassing childhood memory? God, there's way too many. Oh I know! When I got caught sneaking out delivering a love letter to this boy that I had a crush on. He was way older than me and in high school. This little punk kid. I got caught sneaking out of the house, because I stayed the night at a friend's house, and my sister was outside way late at night snooping by the house when I was delivering the love letter. And so she saw me and woke up my parents! Then my parents didn't believe me, so they went to the stairwell and pulled out the love letter from the door and read it. It was really embarrassing. (Laughs.)
Geez, your sister is a little tattle-tale. Favorite non-MMA sport? Well that's hard... because I like a lot of sports. Football.
Favorite team? Seahawks.
Change one rule in MMA right now. Maybe a combination of kicking a downed opponent and kneeing a downed opponent. Pride rules!
What color would you make the sky if it wasn't going to be blue anymore? Pink and purple. (Laughs.)
Oh god, that's terrifying. Batman or Superman? Batman.
Candy or coffee? What about coffee?! I love it! Java.
Rather get knockout of the year or sub of the year? Oh, let's be realistic. Sub.
What is the last movie you saw? Gravity! You know, sure, it was good. It's not like the best movie I've ever seen, but it was entertaining. It wasn't super entertaining, but it was entertaining. It wasn't what I was expecting.
Is the glass half empty or half full? That means do I look at life with the most positive outlook or do look at it always like a negative Nancy? (Laughs.) It's half full!
If you could do TUF again, would you? Yes.
First job? Steer Inn. It's like a really good burger place. Burgers, shakes and fries and stuff. I took orders. Counter girl.
Current job? Waitress. (Laughs.) I really moved up. I really moved up in this world.
If you had to max out your credit card, which store would you do it at? Swank Boutique.
Tyson vs. Ali in their prime? Muhammad Ali is the greatest! Well, Mike Tyson would (win), but I bet you Mike Tyson would say Muhammad Ali just ‘cause he's cool and humble and all that, just like I'm trying to be for him. But Tyson KO's him.
Back in the day, UFC or Pride? Pride.
Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses? The first one... right?! Or my choice is 100 duck-sized horses? What kind of question is that? Yeah, the first one.
Fight any non-fighter in history, who would it be? Ronda Rousey! No, just kidding. I would fight... who's a really bad person? I'll fight Osama Bin Laden.
Favorite ice cream flavor? Oh, that's hard. I don't know, as a kid I always ate Daiquiri Ice at Baskin Robbins... but I really like coffee ice cream, too. Let's go java. We'll go java. No, no, we'll go Daiquiri Ice. We'll go Daiquiri Ice.
You vs. Ronda Rousey right now? Ronda Rousey. I can say that just because I want to give her respect. Would I try to win? Absolutely.
Best street fight story? Okay, one time a week before high school was about to start, I went to this house up the street for a boxing party and there were these senior girls there. They were like, ‘You want to box?' Okay, I've never done anything like that before. Right when they said go, all three girls jumped on my back and started beating me up. We were boxing, boxing, and then we all stopped or something like that, and I walked away. One of the girls came behind me and clocked me in the back of the head!
I was like, oh hell no. So then I turned around and decked her in the back of the head, and like, dropped her. (Laughs.) Then on the very first day of school, which was like five days later, not even, our lockers were right next to each other. Bang, bang! I was a freshman and she was a senior. It was pretty embarrassing. She moved out of the locker, like, right away. I definitely won. (Laughs.)
The Wire, The Sopranos or Breaking Bad? That's hard! The Sopranos I watched first, and then Breaking Bad I only watched the first season, then maybe I got a little bit into the second season. But I don't have access to it anymore so I can't watch it!
Oh, it got amazing. It already was amazing! Dang it. I need to start watching it. Ugh, I guess Sopranos.
The Ultimate Fighter 18 is back with a normal episode next Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1. Do you have a question for Julianna Pena? Ask it in the comments below and she'll answer you next week. Portions of this interview have been edited for concision.