It’s been eight months since UFC bantamweight Aspen Ladd underwent ACL and MCL surgery, and she expects to return to the octagon in July. When she comes back, she hopes Julianna Pena will be standing across from her in the cage.
“I’m at the point now where I have a timeline of when I’ll be back, and by that time, I highly doubt that fight will have materialized, and it makes no sense for her to jump ahead and get the fight just because she’s talking a lot of trash, but you know how the game works,” Ladd told What the Heck.
Ladd said she and Pena were booked on two occasions, once at UFC on ESPN 8 and at another event. The former booking was cancelled due to the pandemic, and the latter she said Pena withdrew for unknown reasons. That set up a bout with Sara McMann, which was scrapped when she tore her knee.
Pena went on to face McMann at UFC 257 and won the fight via third-round submission. Afterward, she called out Nunes, who balked at the idea.
“[McMann is] one of the best in the world at what she does, but she’s never translated over too well to MMA,” Ladd said. “Her problem is when it starts getting tough, she starts to break. So Julianna went out with a great game plan, essentially what ours was before the fight. I was not shocked by the outcome at all. I think they’re both great fighters, and McMann is wonderful at what she does, but it doesn’t quite translate to MMA.”
When a fight between Pena and ex-champ Holly Holm fell through, Pena renewed a push for a title shot, pressuring the UFC to sign the fight after Nunes’ drubbing of Anderson. UFC President Dana White appeared open to the idea, though he stopped short of confirming the bout.
“She’s doing everything she needs to do to get the most attention possible for her,” Ladd said of Pena. “I heard a rumor that she wanted a TUF show against Amanda, but I highly doubt that will happen. So she’s promoting herself in the best way she can, probably.
“But the thing is, she doesn’t make the decisions – Amanda does, and Amanda just fought at 145, she doesn’t fight often, and if she’s going down to 135, especially if they’re going to ax the 145-pound division, it’s going to be a long time before that fight materializes, and in that case, she definitely needs to fight me before she fights Amanda.”
If Pena does get the title shot, Ladd expects Nunes will prevail.
“I think Julianna’s a more legitimate contender than anybody she’s fought recently,” Ladd said. “I think she it will be the grappling that brings it in. With Amanda, the only think she’s ever showed in my opinion is a little bit of lack in cardio, and when she hits the ground, it’s not that fast-paced. So I think Julianna has a better shot – do I think she’ll come out victorious? No.”