Over the course of eight years -- a run that spans 18 American seasons, two Brazilian seasons, and one U.K. vs. Australia season -- never before had two fighters from the same TUF cast failed to make weight. At least, not until junk food connoisseur Anthony Gutierrez joined Cody Bollinger on the sidelines during last night's episode of The Ultimate Fighter 18, giving a furious David Grant a free pass to the men's final.
Grant will now meet Team Tate's Chris Holdworth on November 30 to decide this season's men's bantamweight tourney winner. But in the meantime, Team Tate's other finalist, No. 1 women's pick Julianna Pena, returns to discuss Gutierrez's missteps, this season's wild coaches challenge, plus answer your questions in another round of our TUF Mailbag.
If you have anything you'd like to ask the Venezuelan Vixen, there's only one week left, so get those questions in quickly, folks. Now with that said, let's hear from Julianna.
Al-Shatti: First off, before all the drama, I'm curious what this past week has been like for you. It's been five months and now you can finally tell people you're a finalist.
Pena: It's been cool. I've been signing a lot more autographs lately, and I'm still sitting here scratching my head, why? Come on you guys! You're embarrassing me. Knock it off. My team is putting on a fight show tomorrow night at a casino, and I'm the ‘special guest.' (Laughs.) Like, oh my God, I'm not a special guest. It's awkward. These people are going to be lining up for my autograph and I can't even believe it. I can't wrap my head around it still. It's embarrassing me.
Al-Shatti: Well this week's episode had to be sweet for you. Cody Bollinger and Anthony Gutierrez have been on your case all season, and now they're both gone in the most inglorious way possible.
Pena: Absolutely. That's what me and Dana (White) were joking about. He goes, ‘I guess it doesn't pay to be mean to you, huh? Looks like they got the Vixen Curse.' (Laughs.)
Seriously, aside from all of this, they literally were the ones that made the whole house gang up on me. But even then, it sucks. It's embarrassing, and I'm embarrassed for both of them. The whole episode Anthony is sitting there being like, ‘I can eat junk food and healthy food. I have the best cardio on the team, and I just wish everybody would get off my case.' How embarrassing. My goodness. The nice part of me kind of feels sorry for them. I feel a little bit bad.
Al-Shatti: Yeah, the editors didn't really do him any favors this week.
Pena: And they shouldn't have. He was a freakin' nightmare for them. He was the only one in the house that kept getting fined.
Pena: Yeah, like he wouldn't put on his microphone so they charged $200 or so. Something like that. I don't think they liked him that much.
Al-Shatti: So, were Gutierrez's diet issues actually as bad as they seemed? Because the show made him look pretty bad.
Pena: Yeah I'm pretty sure he was eating everything under the sun, and then some. It was pretty bad. I was worried about myself, so I sure as hell wasn't worried about Anthony Gutierrez and what he's eating, but they missed the part about him eating a lot of ice cream. I know that. For the most part, it was like, good, feed him. Eat the whole thing. Eat the whole house. Go ahead. You're a grown ass man and you know damn well what you're doing, so if you're not making weight or eating whatever you want, that's on you. He can't blame anybody but himself.
If you are not making weight, there's a reason for that. To me, I believe it's because you don't want to fight, period. Hopefully he went and found a real job like Dana suggested, because obviously fighting is not something that he's interested in doing.
Al-Shatti: It's pretty unbelievable, especially when you consider the free pass Anthony got because of Cody's slip up. I mean, you were in that house. Can you understand how not one, but two professional athletes could lose focus so badly in that environment considering the stakes?
Pena: Absolutely not. And if I'd liked them more as people, I probably would've asked them what's going on. But I didn't care.
I was just eating my cherries and minding my own business. I think in every scene you seen me in this episode, I just have my body hovered over something and I'm just eating cherries. These cherries are so good. (Laughs.)
Al-Shatti: I think the thing I was most surprised about was David Grant's reaction. He was legitimately angry.
Pena: As he should be. Davey is such a hard worker. He didn't come all this way, come overseas and all this stuff, just to be handed something on a silver platter. He wants to showcase his skills and he wants to prove that he deserved to be there. And for Anthony not to make weight, it just pissed him off and I completely understand that. He wanted to win this bout fair and square, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.
Pena: No. Ronda is mean. She's a mean girl, so no. I have respect for her as a skilled fighter, and I have respect for her because she's very good at what she does. I think she's amazing as an athlete and amazing as a judoka girl, but no, it's not like I have more respect for her just because she said she was going to cut weight.
She sat there feeding Anthony hamburgers and being like, you're going to be a finely tuned athletic machine. Then in the next episode it's like, maybe you need to lay off the burgers. Well you're the one giving him the burgers, and then you accuse Miesha of it being her fault (when Bollinger missed weight), and how weak she was for not taking credit for it, saying it's 110 percent the coach's responsibility. Well is it 110 percent Ronda's responsibility that Anthony didn't make weight because she's sitting there feeding him burgers the whole time?
Al-Shatti: Speaking of Ronda, I have to ask, what did you think of her legendary response to beating Miesha in the coaches challenge?
Pena: Geez. I had to laugh a little bit. I'm a very competitive person as well, and I don't like losing by any means, but it's not very graceful to win like that. I felt a little bit embarrassed. Embarrassed for Ronda, and embarrassed for Miesha, too. I don't think that's the way to act towards somebody when you beat them.
I was embarrassed that Ronda acted like that in front of Miesha and her whole team, and made her probably feel like crap for losing. And I was embarrassed for Ronda that she would go to lengths to continually flip her off and say, f--k you b---ch! Oh man. She should be embarrassed for herself a little bit. I don't know, maybe not. Maybe that's the way her mother raised her, and maybe that's the way she likes to conduct herself. It's not my style.
Al-Shatti: So I know Team Rousey got a little something extra for their win. Did the rest of you walk away empty-handed?
Pena: The winning team got money, and I believe they got PlayStations. But then we were like come on Dana, don't do that to us! And so he gave us all PlayStation 4s. (Laughs.) They haven't come out yet, but when they come out everybody on the season gets one besides Bollinger and Gutierrez. They don't deserve it.
robertfizzer asks: Miss Pena, very good fight last week. I think you are handling the tension toward you very well. Just remember everyone is out for the favorite, so maybe that's why they say things. My question, has it been hard to get back in fight shape with such a short recovery time during this show?
Pena: Na, I was selected first on the team and then I was selected for first match-up, so since I got to fight first, I got the longest time (between fights).
I was injured though for about the first week and a half of the show after I fought Shayna. My knee blew up and swelled up like a melon, so I didn't get to train for a long time, then I had x amount of time to train for my next fight. Obviously the prize at the end is so motivating, getting in shape is not even something you think about. It's just something you do. It's wasn't hard at all, it was just very motivating.
Jamesglory asks: Firstly, Congratulations Julie on your impressive victory. A couple of questions, please. 1.) How much has the editing of the show over-magnified the ‘favoritism' aspect portrayed between you, Sarah and the coaches? 2.) Out of all the fighters, boys and girls in the TUF house, apart from your pretty self, who do you think will become a major force in the UFC? Congratulations once again and thank you for answering these questions too.
Pena: 1.) It's over-magnified quite a bit. Sarah went and trained with Miesha for about a week and a half after she beat me for the first time. She knows Miesha just like I know Miesha, so for her to claim favoritism really isn't fair. She's a big girl, she can say, hey, I want to work on this or I want to work on that. But because she had to cut so much weight, she was busy doing that instead of training.
A lot of the times when it shows me and Miesha working together, that's from the week before (I fought) Shayna Baszler. So it makes it look like she's playing favorites but the timelines are completely different. After about the fourth week or so, anytime I would come up to Miesha, she would literally shoo me away because she didn't want the cameras to make it look like she was playing favorites. The show does a really good job of editing the whole favoritism thing. It wasn't really as much of a thing as they're trying to make it out to be.
2.) Chris Holdworth and Davey Grant, I would have to say. They're tough. And for all of you guys who say congratulations for making it into the finals, thank you very much. Thank you for your support, thank you for watching, and thank you for rooting for me. It means the world to me. It really does.
Omar Little asks: Have you read the other TUF fighters' blogs? It seems that they have a universally negative opinion of you. However, most of the people that have had a problem with you all have one thing in common: they lost. Do you think what makes people dislike you ultimately makes you successful? In MMA people that are the most successful are typically aloof, loathed, and focused only on their game. Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey are almost universally disliked, yet no one can argue their success. Likewise in other sports guys like Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Larry Bird were fierce competitors who couldn't care whether or not you like them. So is what makes you "the bad guy" also what makes you the winner?
Pena: You said it best right there. The common denominator is that they lost and they're out of the competition, therefore they're going to say whatever they can to stay relevant. They're not being remembered for winning on the show, they're being remember for losing on the show. So they want to drag me down and make it look like I'm this huge, big b--ch. Other people talked, other people said vulgar things, other people said annoying things, and I looked the other way. I wasn't going to cause big drama. And yet every single thing I did, even if I said good morning, it was the talk of the town and now I'm this crazy big b--ch and everybody hates me. It didn't matter, because I was winning my fights and they didn't like that. I guarantee you, if I'd have lost to Shayna, everybody would've loved me.
@MJKolhoff asks: Is there anything from the season you wishes they would've shown more?
Pena: I wish they would've showed me getting along with the people I did get along with. I talked to the British boys a lot, and I talked to Holdsworth. I talked to Roxanne a lot. Those four people were the only four people that really treated me like a normal person, and those were the people that were telling me to ignore everybody else in the house and to ignore the way they were talking about me. Plus if I'm this annoying, bad person, I wish they'd have shown what I was doing to make all those people feel justified. But I understand, they're making a TV show. They need ratings. They need to make somebody look like the bad guy. So if that's the role they want to cast me in, go right ahead.
Do you have a question for Julianna Pena? Ask it in the comments below and she'll answer you next week. The final episode of The Ultimate Fighter 18 airs next Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1. Portions of this interview have been edited for concision.