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Julianna Pena welcomes Amanda Nunes rematch, also targets Valentina Shevchenko, Germaine de Randamie

New UFC bantamweight champion Julianna Pena is willing to rematch Amanda Nunes, but she also has a few do-overs on her mind following a massive upset win at UFC 269.

“I would like to go down and rematch Valentina Shevchenko,” Pena said after the pay-per-view event. “I would love to get that rematch against Germaine de Randamie. I would love a rematch, if that’s what she wants, against Amanda. Right now, I just want to soak it all in.”

With such a seismic shift in the bantamweight landscape, Nunes was first on the minds of reporters at the UFC 269 post-fight press conference. Prior to Saturday night’s event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the Brazilian hadn’t been defeated in seven years and held belts at 135 and 145 pounds.

With just the featherweight belt in Nunes’ possession, the idea of a move up in weight – and the champ-champ implications it carried – was broached as a potential next step for Pena. But with the possibility of a move down to flyweight, champ-champ status is in reach either way.

“We can rematch at 135 pounds if she wants to do that, but whatever the company decides,” Pena responded. “It would be great to be a two-division champion, even to go down to 125 and face Valentina down there. Right now, I just want to soak in the moment of being a champion.”

After a training camp she said lasted one year, Pena felt she deserved a little time off. She was scheduled to face Nunes in August at UFC 265 before a positive COVID-19 test ruled the then-champ out. Even before that, she outlined a long history with Nunes of opportunities that slipped through her fingers as the champion dictated the schedule.

“We can do it next week,” Nunes joked of a rematch. “I’m free next month. ... In all fairness, I’ve been in camp for a year. I really think that my daughter deserves some mommy time, some vacation. After that, definitely, if she wants to do a rematch, we can do a rematch. I’ve always been a company girl. Point me in the direction, and I’ll go there.”

Then again, Pena was clearly enjoying the idea of being in the driver’s seat. Ambitious as she had been from the start of her MMA career, she sometimes felt like she wasn’t taken seriously as a contender. And at no point was that more blatant than in the lead-up to her fight with Nunes, where she was as high as a 7-1 underdog in betting lines.

“I definitely think people have been sleeping on me, and they haven’t been putting any respect on my name, giving me as much credit as I feel I deserve,” Pena said. “Whenever the commentators talk about Amanda Nunes, they’ll say everyone else’s name but mine, and they can’t even spell my name right; they don’t ever put the tilde over the ‘n.’ There’s little things where I’m like, ‘Man, can I get some respect?’ But with that being said, I wasn’t surprised. ... For everyone else that was sleeping, wake up, and I’m here.”

Most of the MMA world thought Pena would wilt under the power of Nunes’ punches. A knockdown in the first round seemed to portend a quick win for the two-division champ. Then Pena recovered and got back in the fight, and in the second round, momentum started to shift as she started landing punches in bunches.

“I could see the change in her face, then I could see my corner going, ‘go, go,’ and I was like, ‘Alright, we’re doing this,’” she remembered.

Even after she was pulled off of Nunes and declared the winner of the fight via rear-naked choke, it took an official’s confirmation to hammer home the point that she’d won. Even then, the idea that she’d just dethroned the consensus GOAT in women’s MMA hadn’t really sunk in.

Slowly, though, it was starting to as she sat with the UFC belt in front of her on the dais.

“I shook up the world, and I did what I said I was going to do,” she said. “But at the end of the day, I’m not surprised. ... I’ve been through the wash. I’ve done it all. I’m talking torn everything that you could possibly think of, ran over by cars, hit by dudes in the alleys, I’ve done it all. Nothing was going to stop me from getting this belt. It’s my time.”

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