The quarterfinals ended with a bang on Wednesday night's episode of The Ultimate Fighter 18. Despite being Team Tate's No. 1 male pick, Cody Bollinger pulled a Gabe Ruediger and failed to make weight -- in rather dramatic fashion, I might add -- which led Team Rousey's Anthony Gutierrez to advance to the semis by default. Then Team Tate's Sarah Moras evened the score at four wins apiece, overpowering Peggy Morgan en route to first-round armbar victory.
Now just one fight stands between the remaining eight fighters and a spot in November's live finale. On the men's side it's Chris Holdsworth (Tate) vs. Michael Wootten (Rousey) and Anthony Gutierrez (Rousey) vs. David Grant (Rousey), while on the women's side it's Raquel Pennington (Tate) vs. Jessica Rakoczy (Rousey) and Sarah Moras (Tate) vs. our own Julianna Pena (Tate).
If you have any questions for Pena, feel free to drop them in the comments below and she'll answer you during next week's TUF Mailbag. Now without further ado, let's gets to it.
Al-Shatti: So right off the bat, I want to ask because I wasn't sure, did Cody Bollinger get kicked off the show?
Al-Shatti: Wow. I know you and him didn't exactly get along, so how did you feel as everything was going down?
Pena: It's not like I was over the moon happy, but I wasn't crying or upset or anything like that. I felt like he had been rude to me and caused me a lot of problems earlier on in the season.
But I think (him being kicked off) was merited. On The Ultimate Fighter show, if you don't make weight, you go home.
Al-Shatti: So walk me through this. He was Team Tate's No. 1 male pick. How exactly did something like this happen?
Pena: I wasn't watching him too closely. I just remember one time him eating ice cream and being like, ‘Oh, I'll burn this off in 15 minutes in the sauna. It's not even a big deal.' We were all kinda like, I wouldn't do that if I were you. And he was just, ‘Bah, child's play. This is only a few minutes in the sauna.' He'd read the label and be like, ‘Oh, only 150 calories for a quarter of a cup? Child's play. I'll burn this off in 10 minutes in the sauna.'
I just think that he was wrapped up in being friends with everybody and wrapped up in eating all the food that he wanted. He wasn't taking into account how much he was going to have to lose and he wasn't being very intelligent when it comes to weight cutting. The pressure of being No. 1 pick was probably too much. I wouldn't say that it was a direct result as to why he left, but it's definitely a lot of pressure when you're the No. 1 pick. You automatically have a target on your back and you're trying to go out there and prove why you were picked No. 1. It's a lot to deal with.
Al-Shatti: Cody quit more than a few times during the cut. What was the reaction around the team as he kept repeating that feeling?
Pena: I think everybody couldn't believe it. Nobody could believe that was actually happening. At least, I couldn't. Like, are you kidding me?
We just couldn't believe the fact that somebody would give up and not try to make weight, just throw in the towel when there was so much riding on the line.
Al-Shatti: Cody might have screwed up bad, and that's probably an understatement, but do you respect the way he owned up to it and didn't make excuses?
Pena: He wouldn't have told Dana (White) if he didn't have to. He got called out. Do I respect him for owning up to it? I mean, what else can you do? Deny it?
Al-Shatti: True. Okay, last thing on this and then we'll move on. Anthony Gutierrez ended up getting a choice between a free pass to the semis or having to cut weight all over again and fight. He chose the free pass. I'm just curious, if you were in that situation, would you do the same?
Pena: I'd probably have done the same thing. (You have to do) whatever advances you further on into the competition without risking getting hurt or risking putting your body on the line an extra time when you wouldn't need to.
Al-Shatti: Fair enough. So next up, in the season's last quarterfinal Sarah Moras made short work of Peggy Morgan. She's next in your sights. Were you impressed by her performance?
Pena: I completely predicted it! I sat there doing my makeup -- they didn't show it -- but I'm like, ‘Yeah, it's going to be an armbar in the first round, for sure.'
Al-Shatti: Wow, nicely done. What made you think that?
Pena: Once we caught rumors of who the list was going to be for the cast, who was going to maybe make it and get a chance to compete for the elimination fights, Peggy Morgan's name was on there. I remember watching a couple fights she'd been a part of, studying her ground game a little bit, and [analyzing] her as a fighter.
Because I've already fought Moras before, and judging from the fights that I'd seen online of Peggy, I just knew that Moras' ground game was world class, and Peggy, she wasn't going to have an answer. And she didn't. Moras proved it.
Al-Shatti: You've been a team-first cheerleader the entire season. So be honest with me, after everything that happened, it had to be sweet satisfaction for you Team Tate girls to go 3-1 against Rousey, right?
Pena: Absolutely! I was absolutely happy. On top of the world. I wanted our team to win. I'm always the first one screaming in the mic. During every fight you can see me in background standing up and cheering. I can always hear myself screaming and yelling for my team. So yeah, I was very happy when that happened.
Al-Shatti: Well now we've finally reached the semis, and bam, you're fighting Sarah Moras, who's not just a teammate, but also the girl who handed you your first professional loss. What's going through your mind when Dana White announces those match-ups?
Pena: It completely threw a wrench into what I'd been preparing for. The thing is, I knew I wasn't going to get (Jessica) Rakoczy. Me and Moras had already fought before, and Moras had already fought Raquel (Pennington) before. We knew that one of us was going to have to fight a teammate, and so since Sarah had already fought both me and Raquel, we were thinking they'd give Sarah the match-up against Rakoczy, so that she could have somebody she's never fought before. I was mentally (preparing for that).
Then Dana changed it last second. When they said I was fighting Moras, I was like, What? What just happened? I wasn't expecting that at all.
Al-Shatti: You're so competitive though. Was it a pleasant surprise? I mean, you get a chance to avenge a loss on national TV.
Pena: When I was in the interview to get into the house, they asked me, ‘So, Moras is here. You lost to her. How's that going? What happened there?' I was like, ‘Man, I'll fight her right here, right now, for free. Where is she? I'll do it right now.' (Laughs.) When I fought Moras the first time, it hit me hard. I'd just got hit by a car, then fought up a weight class and took my first loss. I was just devastated. It took me a long time to come back from martial arts after that. I pretty much hid under a rock and died. I'd never experienced a loss before, so to get another opportunity to fight her, it was like, I've been waiting for this.
@wrestling_1000 asks: Favorite music before a fight?
Pena: That's tough, because when I first started, I would only listen to classical music before I'd fight. Like, straight classical music. But then I switched it up because one time I remember listening to classical music, then going out there and just getting rocked within the first 30 seconds, and being like, the music didn't pump me up enough. I would've never got hit like that if I was listening to some Kayne! So now I like to listen to anything with a good, fast beat. Something that gets me revved up, something that makes me hot and angry and ready to throw down. I love a lot of music, and so anything that just gets the blood boiling.
Bboyawall asks: Julianna as we head into semifinals, is it getting harder not to slip on the results of who made it to the finals? Also I feel like a little kid at work when I see my questions being answered. It's awesome, thank you!!!
Pena: (Laughs.) Absolutely! It's my pleasure to answer your questions. Thank you for taking the time to ask a question and for caring. That means a lot to me and makes me happy.
And yeah, it is (tough). Everybody wants to know the answers! It really sucks because you want to be like, just watch the show, dangit! I haven't told anybody. I was sworn to secrecy on a $5 million contract and I take that very seriously. (Laughs.)
superfknmario__ asks: 1. Who wins in a Rousey/Cyborg fight? 2. Hablas español?
Pena: 1. Cyborg. TKO/KO.
2. Si habla español un poquito. Si me español es muy mal. Yo entiendo un poquito.
Do you have a question 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.