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‘Superstitious’ Julianna Peña lets Dana White pick her walkout music

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

For years, Rory MacDonald walked to the Octagon to music that wasn’t his own. After changing his phone number, a random person who’d inherited his number selected his entrance cuts, and this went on for a long time. He finally got it sorted out, but yielding control of his walkout music didn’t seem to bother him.

Nor does it bother women’s bantamweight contender Julianna Peña, who at UFC 200 walked out to Heart’s "Crazy On You." Those who thought she had pegged the perfect walkout music for her fight with Cat Zingano got it wrong. When that song came over the speakers at the T-Mobile Arena, it was as much a surprise to her as it was anybody else.

"[That song] actually came from my favorite person, Dana White," Peña said during an appearance on The MMA Hour on Monday. "He picks my walkout songs because I’m a little superstitious sometimes when it comes to fighting things. I always have to walk out to a random song. So I leave it up to Dana and then he chooses the song he wants me to walk out to. But the last three songs have always had like the word ‘crazy’ in it, because he calls me his little ‘crazy train,’ because he thinks I’m nuts.

"He had like ‘Crazy Train’ by Ozzy Osbourne last time, and then this one, ‘Crazy on You,’ by Heart. I think he just tries to find as many songs as he can that has the word ‘crazy’ in it and I’ll just walk out to that. So I never know what I’m walking out to until the second I walk out to the cage."

The UFC always has to give its stamp of approval for walkout music, and White has assigned plenty of walkout songs before. Dan Henderson walked out to "Lunatic Fringe" at UFC 82, which White thought fitting giving his wrestling background. It was also White that gave then-middleweight champion Rich Franklin his classic walkout number, "For Those About To Rock," by AC/DC.

Some fighters are very driven by their own music, which helps motivate them as they make the walk. Some use the music as meditation. But Peña likes to be surprised. She’s not worried that a sour note will come across the PA that might throw her off or bring her down before the song. She just likes to limit her involvement.

"That’s why I leave it up to random, so I don’t have to worry about what it’s going to play," she told Ariel Helwani. "What motivates me is knowing that I haven’t heard this song, I have absolutely no idea what’s going to play, and then they just start playing my song and I’m like, alright, this is my song. I’m pretty familiar with a lot of music too, so it’s not like I have been unfamiliar with the sound of the music the second I start walking. The second I start walking I’m like, okay, this song’s badass, let’s do this."

As alum of The Ultimate Fighter, Peña had moments on the show when she was going stir crazy while in the house. It’s because of her outward displays of that cabin fever — especially in pleading with White to do something about it — that the "crazy" came into play.

"I’m the one that calls myself crazy to him in the first place," she said. "When I first met him I was like, hello, I’m Julianna. And then after awhile on The Ultimate Fighter when I started having panic attacks because you’re locked in there like a caged animal. I’m like, ‘I’m going crazy, I’m crazy train right now Dana, you got to get me out of here, I’m going nuts!’ And he’s like, ‘calm down. There’s nothing more important right now back in Spokane, don’t worry about it, you’re going to be fine, let everybody do their thing and you just focus on the fight.’

"So, he’s called me his crazy train ever since. And so that’s just kind of my nickname from him I guess."

Peña has won all four of her fights in the UFC since defeating Jessica Rakoczy in the Finale. After suffering a severe leg injury in training, in which she tore all the major ligaments in her knee, Peña has come back strong, scoring victories over Milana Dudieva, Jessica Eye and Zingano.

Now the 26-year old "Venezuelan Vixen" is vying for a title shot against Amanda Nunes. Should she get it, she says she won’t change her stance on avoiding predetermining her walkout own music. 

That is, unless White falls asleep at the wheels of steel.

"I don’t know because, so, I let [White] pick all my songs, right, and this last time he replayed a song he’d already played for me," she said. "I think it’s because he really thinks it fits me well. I don’t know if he’s going to keep it like that. I hope he changes it because I’m kind of superstitious like that, but I’ve got to let go of these superstitions. It absolutely matters zero if I pick a song or if I don’t pick a song. I just think it’s something fun to give him something to do, give him some control over the show. He likes to do it, then I’ll let him keep doing it, and if not maybe I’ll just start picking my own.