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TUF 18 blog with Julianna Pena, episode 5: 'It felt like he'd already defeated himself'

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The scoreboard is all knotted up after last night's episode of The Ultimate Fighter 18, as Team Rousey's David Grant dismantled Team Tate's Louis Fisette en route to a second-round rear-naked choke victory to lock both sides into a 2-2 tie midway through the season's quarterfinals.

Since this is the first co-ed TUF house, the inevitable game of ‘truth or dare' finally reared its head. Plus somewhere between enchilada feasts and cage fighters risking national embarrassment with the favorite pastime of hormonal high schoolers, the season's first major guest coach -- Ronda Rousey's mother, world champion judoka Ann Maria DeMars -- stopped by to see what all the fuss was about.

Now Julianna Pena returns in her weekly Q&A to field your questions, discuss her fondness for Fedor Emelianenko, plus wonder whether Fisette beat himself before he ever step foot inside the cage. If you have a question you'd like to ask Julianna, post it in the comments below and she'll answer the best ones next week. Now, without further ado, let's get to it.


Al-Shatti: By now it seems like everyone in the house is getting homesick. How far into the competition are we, timeline-wise, and were you feeling the same?

Pena: That was week four, and I was homesick the second I walked into the house. (Laughs.) Everybody was missing their families. Everything was starting to get to everybody. It was a tenser environment. The people that already fought were relaxed, but the people that hadn't fought were kind of freaking out wondering when they're going next. So the blood was definitely high.

Al-Shatti: I thought you said everyone was picking on you? Why on earth, then, would you make them all enchiladas?

Rousey's mom visits the set

Pena: I promised (Chris) Holdsworth that I would make him enchiladas when he won his fight! It's just that the sauce had so much leftover and I didn't want to throw it away, so I just made extra and whoever wanted it could have it.

But I found it hilarious that everybody was hating on me, yet they kept eating my food. I don't get that. I made enchiladas for the house twice. If I didn't like somebody, and they made food, I still wouldn't touch it. I don't get that at all.

Al-Shatti: At least you got to screw with their weight worries a bit.

Pena: (Laughs.) Yeah, well the one I made for Holdsworth was relatively healthy. Low fat cheese, regular chicken breast and the tortilla were Ezekiel wraps. The sauce itself was not too bad. I mean, it's flour and oil, so I guess it's not the healthiest for you, but after he'd cut weight and finished his fight, I figured he deserved a big meal since he didn't get any when I made them the first time.

Al-Shatti: So what was the wildest thing you can remember coming out of everyone's truth or dare sessions?

Pena: The wildest was probably the guys mooning each other up against the glass. Or, mine was pretty crazy. Josh Hill dared me to give Michael Wootten a lap dance! That was like the most embarrassing thing ever. I'm not a chicken, I don't want to look like a wimp here, so I went to go do it and he ran away. I was like, ‘Thank you so much, Michael!' I really did not want to do that. (Laughs.)

Al-Shatti: Did you get a chance to meet Ronda Rousey's mom?

Pena: I got a chance to meet her while we were waiting for Davie and Louis' fight to start. I made sure to introduce myself and let her know that I think what she's done is remarkable.

I think I was just so enthralled with her accomplishments. She was showing some moves to some other people on the mat, and I was just watching her. My jaw was literally to the floor. I couldn't believe it. I knew she won gold, but she's however old and she's still chucking people on the ground. I remember her doing some moves on Chris Beal and watching him get tossed, just like, ‘Holy cow! She's still gots it!' Like, please talk to me.

Al-Shatti: How did she treat Team Tate? You guys were the enemy, after all.

Pena: She was open, but at the same time she was like, ‘Why is this girl asking me so many questions?' Because, really, I asked her questions nonstop. I just wanted to know everything. ‘Is it true you really woke up Ronda in an armbar every morning?!' Everything I could. There's only a small percentage chance that you get to meet somebody that did so much in a sport and was so influential.

Al-Shatti: Was there a feeling in the house that David Grant vs. Louis Fisette would be as one-sided as it ended up being?

Highlights from Grant vs Fisette

Pena: For me, I feel like there was. Louis lost his fight to get in the house. And like Louis mentioned, it was just a blessing for him to get a second opportunity. He was just happy to be there.

On the flip side, I remember him, Davey, and me in the hot tub, and Louis basically giving this spiel about how he doesn't really care about winning and losing. Like, losing isn't the end all, be all. I can understand that your wins and losses don't define you as a person, but it just felt like he'd already defeated himself. Especially to talk like that in front of Davey, it was just so strange. Why would you talk like that in front of your opponent?

Al-Shatti: So do you think Louis beat himself before he even got into that cage?

Pena: I don't want to say that for sure, but possibly. He could've have already mentally checked out. There were people who fought their elimination fights who were really gutsy and ballsy. They didn't quit. I feel like they could've been more deserving.

Al-Shatti: Well, Team Tate had a 2-0 lead, and now it's a 2-2 free fall. At this point, what was the feeling in the room?

Pena: It was somber. Nobody was really joyous and everybody was kind of bummed. I think we believed we could pull through, or we were at least hopeful for the future. But everybody was trying their best to keep a positive outlook.



John Duck Kim asks: Tell us some behind the scenes activities at the TUF house that are not shown on TV. Like, what do you do at the house to pass the time? We all saw Roxanne and Shayna doing Japanese language lessons. What interesting or weird thing are you doing to kill the boredom?

Pena: I swam. I went for runs, I drew a lot. I journaled a lot, and I ate a lot. So that's always good. I tried to keep to myself. For the most part I just remember me being in my room with the door shut, writing away ten pages about negative stuff. I filled up two and a half journals. Like spiral notebooks. I had a lot to say, but I didn't want to say it on camera so I had to write it down on paper. (Laughs.)


peruano88 asks: Combat sports are generally big among the Hispanic culture. Not only that, but it seems that there is almost a tradition of many Hispanic fighters having warrior mentalities, never backing down from a fight. After watching your fight with Shayna and some of your previous fights, you seemed to fight with that same fearless attitude. Is that something you developed from watching other Hispanic fighters or from personal experience?

Pena: I don't remember growing up watching a lot of combat sports besides Mike Tyson vs. (Evander) Holyfield. That's the big fight that I remember. But I have the warrior mentality from all the things I have been through in my life. I feel like I've grown up with this sort of harsh exterior, where you need to watch your back because anybody is going to stab a knife in it and not think twice. I've always just been raised a little warrior. My mom would tell me, ‘You speak your mind and you say what you have to say. Don't back down and don't let anybody boss you around.' It might've backfired on her a little bit because I was always in trouble. I was always the one to stick up for everybody, be like, ‘Teacher, we feel like we want to do this because..." And they'd be like, ‘Oh, perfect. Okay. You go down to the principal.'

On the flip side, watching other (Hispanic) people, we do have that warrior mentality. It's something that's in our blood. It's something that was born in me. I just grew up feisty.


Mr. Artemis asks: Hi, Julianna. Do female fighters have difficulties with having family and children because of their constant fighting? Do you want to become a wife and mother sometime in the future? Do you think family can affect women fighters' career in a bad way or is it only for good?

Pena: I have two things about that. First thing, when you have a kid, it does change your training time and affect how much you get to train. You're not thinking about yourself anymore, you're thinking about your baby. Your baby takes priority over everything. At the same time, that's not to say you can't find time to become a champion. Absolutely not. If you look at Michelle Waterson, she's the Invicta FC champion right now, and she has a kid. She won that belt after returning from pregnancy. If you've got the mindset and the mentality, then you're going to see through whatever it you want to see through.

As far as me, I most definitely would love to be a wife and a mother someday. That's not something I'm looking to do tomorrow, but it's definitely something I want in the future.


peruano88 asks: Who was the biggest influence in getting you to want to be a fighter?

Pena: I think I'm my biggest influence in wanting to be a fighter. It's something I envisioned for myself a long time ago, and it's something I've always seen myself doing. I always want MMA to be a part of my life. I'm my own driving force as far as continuing to motivate myself to become a champion one day.

Also, Fedor (Emelianenko). Absolutely. I love the way Fedor fights. He's been influential to me from the day I saw him. He's coming to kill. To kill as fast as he can, in devastating fashion. He's always looking for it. I think that's the way that everybody should fight if they're going to fight. Even though he's lost in the past and got caught, he got caught going for it. He got caught trying to kill. He got caught trying to end somebody's life, and that's the way I think a fighter should fight.


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.