It didn't take long for TUF 18's Julianna Pena to make her presence known. Thrust immediately into a No. 1 vs. No. 1 match-up against the prohibitive favorite of the house, Team Rousey's Shayna Baszler, Pena weathered a frustrating opening frame to battle back and score a stunning second-round rear-naked choke victory over the veteran.
The upset flipped the house upside-down and ignited a fire under an already emotional Ronda Rousey. Now Pena returns in the latest edition of our weekly TUF 18 Q&A to explain just how bad things got, both inside the house and between the coaches.
If you have anything you'd like to ask the victorious "Venezuelan Vixen," please write it in the comments below and she'll be sure to answer you next week. Rec'd comments will get first priority. Now let's hear from Wednesday night's winner.
Al-Shatti: First off, I have to ask you about the fight. That room was so loud, and it just exploded after she tapped. You beat the favorite. Could you even comprehend it?
Pena: If I could've shoved pie in their faces, I would've done it! (Laughs.) I just wanted to be like, ‘Well you look stupid now, don't you?!' I wanted to shout out from the rooftops, but I couldn't do that. I'm not one of those people to rub it in your face. I was pretty calm about it. But at the same time it was a good fight. She dominated the first round, so I give it to her. She did a good job.
Al-Shatti: Both Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler seemed pretty dismissive towards the fight beforehand. Did you get that sense from them?
Pena: Definitely. I could feel the arrogance in the air. I could feel how confident they all were as a team. Everybody already knew they had it in the bag, including my own team. Nobody from my own team thought I was going to win. Nobody believed in me.
Even after the fight, when we were riding back in the van, I was like, ‘HA! None of you guys thought I was gonna win!' And they were all like, ‘Yup. We didn't. Sorry.' They all admitted it. I was like, maybe now you guys will take me more seriously. But at the same time, good. Keep hating on me. Keep thinking I suck. That fuels me. I was getting high off their hatred.
Al-Shatti: Shayna, in particular, really poured it on. She said you should've been coming to her seminars. She repeated that sort of sentiment over and over throughout the episode.
Pena: Yep, and it hurt her. When she's on the bed talking about how I'm not the girl to put the stamp on her, from her body language, it didn't look like she was really believing it. She was just talking to talk. For them to say things like, I don't deserve to breathe the same air as Shayna, or, I can't hold a candle to anybody she's fought -- it just really backfired. If she's not going to be a little more humble in the future, maybe she should. Because I think, personally, she looks extremely stupid. It should make her take a little piece of that humble pie and shove it down her throat.
Al-Shatti: Okay, backtracking a bit, tell me: What's that moment like when you first walk into the house, there's cameras everywhere and this is finally a real thing?
Pena: It's... weird. You go to the bathroom and there's cameras in every corner. No place is safe. It's really strange at first, adjusting to all the cameras everywhere and knowing where the safe spots are that they're not going to see you. ‘Am I okay going to bathroom?' It was really surreal. They put a camera in the bathroom to see if anybody's in there or not, but they way they're angled... you kind of wonder, ‘Can they see me when I'm in the corner?' It was one of those things.
Al-Shatti: Did you have a gameplan coming into the house? I noticed you were the first one to bolt upstairs looking for a room.
Pena: Mike Chiesa warned me. He listed a lot of things I needed to do, and the first thing on the list: Find a bedroom upstairs with a door. He said in his TUF house the bedrooms downstairs didn't have doors, and you could hear everything all night long. So I knew that, and I'm the first one bolting through the door because I needed that room. I was on a mission. (Laughs.)
Al-Shatti: Did you succeed in your mission?
Pena: Oh yeah. I got the smallest room with the bathroom inside. And it had a door! It could barely open and close. The door was really annoying, actually, because it was really loud. But yeah, I got the room I wanted.
Al-Shatti: You made it clear right away: you didn't come here for boys. Did you get the sense that any other women felt differently?
Pena: I wouldn't say that they had different priorities. I would say that they were... more open to that kind of stuff. Some girls in particular. Not all of them.
Al-Shatti: Willing to name any names?
Pena: Sarah (Moras) was more open to the idea of flirting with the guys and wanting the attention from guys. I wasn't really interested. I kind of just did my own thing.
Once I kind of made it clear I wasn't trying to find a boyfriend, the tone dramatically changed. Before [the men] were really nice and everybody was cool. Then once I'm like, ‘Hey, I'm not here for a boyfriend,' everyone kind of flat lined. I sensed that they thought, ‘There's nothing you girls could do to me. Literally I could fight you with one hand behind my back and still kill you,' you know?
Al-Shatti: Ronda seemed to be instigating even early on, barging in on Team Tate's practice. Was there more to it than that?
Pena: There were things she was doing to piss off our team. To me, it was just very amateur hour. It was like, God, you're such a little girl. Damn, you're so dumb. It wasn't even like we were scared of her. Oh, that's such a great effect. You're kicking in the door. It's just stupid. Somebody trying so hard to get that attention. You're not cool. It backfired and made you look stupid.
Al-Shatti: What did the rest of Team Tate think of it?
Pena: I can't only speak for myself, but for the most part I have a feeling that the other people on my team wanted to be on Ronda's team and thought it was cool. Like, oh yeah, she's so bad. I don't know. I was doing that stuff in the fourth grade. It wasn't shocking and it wasn't intimidating, but some of my team members were so far up her butt that it was like, ‘(Gasp) Ronda! We've got to get out of here!'
Al-Shatti: You said it last week, and you said it a couple times this week: You're your own worst enemy. Did that stress alleviate or only get worse after Shayna slipped a queen of spades card down your shirt at the weigh-ins?
Pena: It was stupid. There is no magic in fighting. There's no tricks. It's a fist fight. I don't want to say it was for TV, but when they're saying, ‘I think that card she put in her shirt just got in her head' -- no! Absolutely not! If anything, it was the opposite. It just looked stupid. People do those types of things when they're getting put in a corner and they're scared. That's when they have to pull out the extras. That, to me, is like people that come out to cage wearing these big gigantic costumes and they go lose their ass. Enough with the gimmicks. I'm not buying it. There's no magic in a cage fight. So she can go ahead with her little aces of spades and shove it right up her ass.
Al-Shatti: Wow, there's clearly no love lost between you two. Tell me: What's going through your mind as you take Shayna's back?
Pena: ‘I better not lose it!' (Laughs.) If the opportunity presented itself to finish the fight, I was going to take it. And it did. I could feel it. I wasn't going to let up. I knew that I was going to finish the fight right then and there. It was just such a great feeling.
Looking back on the fight, I wish I wouldn't have let up on the choke so quickly after she tapped. I should've held it a couple more seconds, but it didn't because I'm nice. So whatever. It was a great feeling.
Al-Shatti: Ronda got incredibly emotional afterward. Was that just for the cameras or did you guys see that too?
Pena: No, I didn't see that. But I definitely saw the dynamics change between her and Miesha after that. Obviously they've had their tiffs in the past, but for the most part, they were cordial with one another. Me and Miesha both agreed, ‘Hmmm, Ronda's being nice. This is kinda weird.' And then, bang! Right after that fight against Shayna, it flipped a switch. After that Ronda was a nightmare. She just couldn't stand the fact that I took out her No. 1 pick. And yeah, it made her cry. That's great. I made Ronda Rousey cry and I love it.
Al-Shatti: When Ronda got angry and chastised Miesha for smiling after your win, you were right there. Was Miesha doing anything disrespectful or ridiculous, or was Ronda just being dramatic?
Pena: Absolutely not. That was Ronda being a big baby. She was so upset that I won, she was trying to look for anything to use as an excuse to talk crap to Miesha. And she found it. Miesha was obviously happy for me. Miesha has competed against Shanya herself and has known Shayna for a while. Shayna is her friend. So for Ronda to be like, ‘You were laughing at my girl's pain! That's the reason why I'm going to destroy you!' It was like, again, it's just so dumb. Grow up. Miesha knows Shanya. They're friends. She's not smiling at her pain. She's happy for me. Only Ronda would twist those type of emotions into something that would make it bad. Because that's the way she thinks.
mrdavidnunez asks: How many girls did you personally know or know about before going into the house? Have you fought or trained with any of them before?
Pena: I knew about Shayna because I'd seen her fight before and I knew what a vet she is. I've fought Sarah Moras. I knew her. And I knew Jessamyn Duke because my training partner fought her a couple years ago. And then of course I knew Roxanne (Modafferi). I didn't personally know her, but knew her from her being a vet as well. I didn't know any of the other girls, but I had seen videos of all of them after they named the rumored list of who was going to make it into the house after the tryouts.
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.