The Bottom Line: No Vale La Pena

By Todd Martin Oct 18, 2016

This has been the year of the outspoken mixed martial artist. From Jose Aldo and Cris Cyborg to Tyron Woodley and Mark Hunt, fighters from across the globe have stood up to speak their minds and oftentimes voice their disapproval with the state of affairs. The great Georges St. Pierre on Monday added his name to that list. With so many athletes eager to let their thoughts be known, we’ve heard plenty of good points and plenty of bad ones. There have been points articulated well and ones that probably should have gone through a public relations manager. However, there is no fighter who has combined terrible points with awful presentation quite as spectacularly as Julianna Pena, who is now angrily threatening to quit the Ultimate Fighting Championship because Ronda Rousey is fighting for the women’s bantamweight title at UFC 207.

Yes, Pena is threatening to quit the company because the most dominant fighter in the history of her division and one of the biggest drawing cards in the history of the sport is getting a chance to regain the title she dominated for years. It would be comical were the righteous indignation not so overwhelming. Rousey fighting for the title is as logical as it gets on both a business level and in terms of merit.

On the business level, UFC 207 “Nunes vs. Rousey” would likely gross in the vicinity of $60,000,000 more than UFC 207 “Nunes vs. Pena.” You don’t have to be wrapped up in financial reports to surmise why Rousey might be fighting for the title. It’s the functional equivalent of a local theater actor raging after trying out for a blockbuster movie because Brad Pitt got the lead role without even auditioning: “I would have killed it in ‘World War Z,’ but they didn’t even look at my tape as Angelo in ‘Measure for Measure!’

It would be one thing if Rousey getting a title shot were some sort of heinous injustice. However, even putting aside economics, Rousey has a perfectly valid claim to a title shot upon her return. Just like Anderson Silva, B.J. Penn, Randy Couture and Frankie Edgar before her, Rousey has built up an impressive enough resume that it’s understandable she would receive a title shot after falling short in a title fight. She was the 135-pound queen for over three years, with eight consecutive title wins via stoppage and seven of those in the first round. She’s a nearly 2-to-1 betting favorite to regain her title against Nunes for a reason.

Beyond Rousey, there’s also the matter of the person voicing the complaints. Even if you get why Conor McGregor is fighting Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 and don’t have a problem with it, you have to at least understand why Jose Aldo is so angry. This is a fighter who dominated his division for years on end and then defeated the other top contender in the division with the promise that McGregor would have to fight the winner of that fight or vacate his featherweight title. The UFC did wrong by Jose Aldo, putting all other issues aside.

What did the UFC do to Pena that was so terrible? First, it gave her a spot as the featured preliminary bout on the high-profile UFC 200 card, above the likes of Johny Hendricks, T.J. Dillashaw and Gegard Mousasi. This was despite her embarrassing the company by getting arrested for a street fight after her last UFC bout. Then, it offered her a fight against a higher-ranked opponent with a better record and a more impressive resume who was coming off a win over one of the biggest names in MMA in front of the UFC’s largest TV audience in a year and a half.

Imagine the nerve of the UFC to offer her that. She has seven straight wins counting “The Ultimate Fighter,” and a couple of those fighters are still in the UFC, to boot! It wasn’t just that Pena didn’t want to fight Valentina Shevchenko; the fight was an insult. She’s livid that Rousey is being “handed” a title shot but is unwilling to fight for hers. She beat Jessica Eye and Cat Zingano; that’s an open-and-shut case right there.

That last point touches on the most striking part of Pena’s ranting and raving: the rank hypocrisy of it all. She belittles Rousey as an unimpressive and unworthy fighter because she is returning after a year off and a loss, yet Zingano is far and away the biggest win of her career and was coming off a longer layoff and quicker loss coming into that fight. She blasts Rousey for having “been on vacation,” when Rousey and Pena will end up having the same number of fights in 2016 and Rousey will have fought twice as many times as Pena over the last three years.

The hypocrisy doesn’t end there. Pena trashes Rousey for supposedly ducking fighters like her while she ducks Shevchenko. That’s not even taking into account that Rousey was taking on higher-ranked opponents when she supposedly didn’t want to fight Pena while “The Venezuelan Vixen” can’t be bothered to fight an opponent that is ranked higher than she is. Meanwhile, Pena rips Rousey for being handed things and then in the same interview says she wants to jump to Combate Americas because they’ll hand her the title there. There’s nary a word that comes out of her mouth that isn’t contradicted by an action she has taken.

If Pena is dead set on not fighting any other contenders in the UFC and would prefer to fight for Combate Americas, the UFC should just offer her the opportunity to leave. It would be unlike Pena to get cold feet on that threat since she has been so clear with her words, and surely, the greater money, publicity and competition in Combate Americas would advance her career remarkably. Fighters like St. Pierre and Aldo are worth going the extra mile to placate. Others just aren’t worth the bother.

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