Team Tate's Chris Holdsworth made his presence felt on Wednesday night, submitting Team Rousey's Michael Wootten with a quickness to secure a spot in November's The Ultimate Fighter 18 live finale. As the inaugural co-ed TUF season winds down, Holdsworth becomes the first male fighter to cement his place in this season's finals.
Next week Team Tate's No. 1 female pick, Julianna Pena, will try to follow Holdsworth's lead in her semifinal rematch against Sarah Moras. But first, Pena joins us for her weekly TUF 18 blog to riff on Wednesday's episode and, as always, answer your questions in this week's TUF Mailbag.
If you have any questions you'd like to ask Julianna, just drop them in the comments below. Now with that said, let's get to the goods.
Al-Shatti: By this point in the season the show is winding down, and only a few people are left in the competition. We see everyone else eating fast food and taking shots, so I'm curious, where were you in all of this? Was it tough to resist that temptation?
Pena: I wasn't hanging out with anybody. I was in my room by myself coloring, or writing myself notes because nobody wanted mine.
I remember just being like a girl version of (Chris) Holdsworth. I was isolating myself. Everybody was off doing their own thing, and (so many) people were out of the competition, so they were more focused on other things. It was a little difficult to focus on the task at hand, but what pushed me is remembering why I was there. Remembering why I had signed up for the show, and what the purpose of all that was. So that was a great driving motivator to make me remember, keep my nose to the grindstone and it'll all be over soon.
Al-Shatti: Holdsworth was complaining about lack of help from training partners. Was the team fractured? Because it almost felt that way.
Pena: Yeah. It sucked because those people were out of the competition. If they weren't hanging out and just relaxing, then they were trying to learn and be on the mat. But at the same time, while they're trying to learn and be on the mat, there's people that still are in the competition that have fights, so obviously we want to work on our gameplans and things that gonna help us win our fights. You only get a certain amount of time to work on the mats.
I wanted to work on what I needed to work on, but sometimes it was hard for the people that were still in the fights to find training partners that were willing to work on gameplans specifically for their fights.
Al-Shatti: Along those lines, Raquel Pennington and Sarah Moras were adamant that Team Tate coaches were playing favorites and only working with you and Holdsworth. Did you feel like that was a valid statement?
Pena: Absolutely not. I think it was just coming from jealousy. Yes, I have known Miesha and Bryan (Caraway), but at the same time, it was the first time I'd met any of the other coaches. I worked just as much with the other coaches.
A lot of times fighters wanted to come in an do their own thing. Like Sarah for example, she had a lot of weight to cut, and so instead of drilling or learning or asking for help, she'd do her own thing and run on the treadmill. So there's nothing the coaches could do about that. ‘Okay, you want to run again today? Well Julianna wants to learn, so she's going to learn. You can run.' It was up to the digression of the fighter. Raquel, she wanted to lift weights, she wanted to do strength and conditioning. I spent my time asking questions and being on the mat, getting matwork done. They had just as much of an opportunity to do that as me. A lot of times me and Chris Holdsworth were the only ones willing to work, and they were dinking around. People were either injured or out of the competition, or they just weren't feeling it, or they wanted to hang out in the team room. But I was there to work.
Al-Shatti: So now that you've had some separation from the situation, what do you think when you watch it back?
Pena: It just cracks me up that they would go to those lengths to make a big deal, making a mountain out of a molehill. I can't believe they'd spent their time focusing on something so minuscule, something that was not even what they're trying to make it out to be.
Like, you guys are delusional. I can't believe you guys are making this s--t up. And getting yourself worked up for it for no reason.
Al-Shatti: Fair enough. So moving to something cheerier, Harley Davidson boot camp, how was that?
Pena: Oh, that was so fun! And it was scary.
Al-Shatti: (Laughs.) Scary?
Pena: It was the first time I sat behind a motorcycle! We got to rev the engine and push the gears between high and low, get it all the way to the highest gear, stuff like that. I'd never done anything like that before, so it was really scary to switch the bike into all the different gears, rev the engine as fast as it could go. It's mounted, so it's not going to go anywhere, but at the same time, it sounds so loud that you're like, there's no way. This thing is about to take off!
Al-Shatti: Afterward were you a victim of the silly string attack?
Pena: I was. (Laughs.) Yeah, I was doing everybody's dishes when I was silly stringed.
Al-Shatti: Wait, wait, wait. Why the heck were you doing everyone's dishes if they're picking on you?!
Pena: Because! I really wanted to gain friends and there was nothing I could do. I did everyone's dishes, they still didn't care. (Laughs.) It's sad but it's true. I seriously sat up there so many nights, I did everyone's dishes, and they just like, Hmph, b---h. I'm serious.
Al-Shatti: What did you take away from meeting and listening to Kenny Salvini?
Pena: Kenny Salvini's story touched me immensely. They showed me there for a second listening to his story, but they missed me crying and bawling my eyes out. At that time tensions were running super high. You're sitting in this competition and it's such a big deal, but you don't take things into consideration. Hearing a story like Kenny's, it's such a positive story. You sit there and complain about things in your life, and, oh, this isn't going right. But sitting before my eyes is a man who can't even brush his own teeth. It was just extremely moving to hear his positivity on life, his outlook on life, and his all-around motto, which was to get up and do life. Wins and losses do not define you as a person. And I think that part really hit home for me.
Life is such a precious thing that can be gone from you in an instant. Focus in on the important things in life and what makes life sweet. It was just a good time to reflect and to realize that I am truly blessed, that things could be way worse. It's just incredible to think about. Maybe I should complain less and be thankful more, and count my blessings more.
Al-Shatti: How impressed were you with Holdsworth's performance? That back take was wild.
Pena: I didn't get a chance to see Holdsworth's performance! I actually fought before him. He was the second fight and I was in the shower, so I didn't get to catch it and I was a little disappointed by that, actually. But when I watched it back, I was extremely impressed. His transition, it was just so technical and so beautiful, so perfectly executed. He went from a front head draw to taking the back, to him standing up and Chris still getting the triangle -- he used the cage to lock up that body triangle and to sneak all the way around his body -- and then just went in for the kill and finished it in devastating fashion. It was executed to a tee. It was awesome.
Bohica007 asks: 1. Who wins between Tate and Rousey? What round will it occur in? 2. Do you think you could beat either coach and why?
Pena: 1. Miesha by armbar in round one! (Laughs.)
2. As a fighter, you've got to be willing to fight anybody, so in my mind, the way that my mind works, I'll fight Fedor tomorrow and whip his ass. So yes, the answer is yes. I could fight those girls and I could beat them on any given Sunday.
mikeandresen asks: I know you're from good ol' Spokane, WA. Do you think Spokane vet Lyle Beerbohm should try out for the show? I think he is a lot better than people realize! He is one of your training partners at Sik Jitsu in Spokane, right? And good luck! Spokane is pulling for you girl!!!
Pena: (Laughs.) Spokane is home to the toughest of the tough. I kid you not. Among those toughest of the tough is Lyle "Fancy Pants" Beerbohm, and he just so happens to get the privilege of sharing my sister with me. So he's not only a training partner and someone who I look up to at times, but he's also my brother-in-law. I think that he's fantastic and I just think he's been dealt a series of bad cards that have not allowed him to get to the UFC yet. I truly, truly care about his success, and yeah, he is a lot better than people give him credit for. I wish one day he'll get his proper recognition.
Bboyawall asks: 1. Now that this is a hot topic, have you ever had trouble cutting weight? 2. How does it make you feel that people believe women have to be aesthetically pleasing to make it in this sport?
Pena: 1. Yes I have. I missed weight for the first time this year when I fought DeAnna Bennett. I fought at 125. I took the fight on very, very short notice, and I was literally on the couch getting fat, not training MMA. My coach was worried about me. You haven't fought since Sarah Moras, what are you doing? You're turning into a slob. So one day he called me and was like, ‘yo, you have a fight in Salt Lake City. It's at 125, and I took it, so you better stop eating.'
The time I made 125 before, I had so much time to prepare. I literally cut a pound, and was there. This time I took it on such short notice that I missed weight and I was late to weigh-ins. If I would've have been late to weigh-ins, it would've given me an extra hour to cut the one pound that I was off by. But because I showed up late, they had no mercy on me and they just took money from my purse instead. That was the first time I'd ever not made weight and I was extremely embarrassed. I didn't care that they took the money. You can have the money. It's just the fact that I didn't get the time to cut all the weight that I needed. Also, I was in an environment that I wasn't familiar with. I had salt baths to cut the weight for the first time, and I normally don't do that. I didn't have access to a sauna. Nothing went right. It was actually a super unhealthy weight cut for me. My hands shriveled up. I couldn't even use them properly and they were cramped up to the point where I couldn't even squeeze or get a grip. It wasn't healthy, it was a bad weight cut and bad experience.
2. It's a double-edged sword. Sex sells, I get it. I do. That's one thing that a lot of girls play up, and if I had a better body, I would play that s--t up all day. But because I was blessed with the circumstances that I'm in, I don't get the opportunity to do that as much. (Laughs.)
However, I'd rather be recognized for my skills as a fighter. So I don't necessarily think that you've got to take it all off to get that recognition. People who are smart know that. People who just want to see two half-naked girls beating each other in the face just to, you know, get their rocks off, that's a different story.
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.