Rousey has not fought in the UFC since 2016, since pursuing a career in professional wrestling. Rousey started her MMA career 12-0 before stepping away following consecutive losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes.
Pena had some strong words for Rousey, expressing some regret over never being able to fight with the one-time MMA superstar.
“That has always been a fight that interests me,” Pena told Sports Illustrated. “When Dana White allowed women into the UFC, he just handed Ronda a belt. She didn’t have to compete, she didn’t have to do anything. He just said, ‘Hey, welcome to this promotion, here’s this shiny belt.’ After he gave her the belt, she had to fight Liz Carmouche. At that point, I’m on The Ultimate Fighter. I wasn’t fighting one person, I had to fight four people. When I came out as the winner, I was ready to face Ronda.”
Pena recalled a specific exchange dating back to her days on The Ultimate Fighter that stuck with her. Pena became the first female fighter to win the show on Miesha Tate’s team, opposite of Rousey’s squad.
“Ronda told me, ‘You’re going to give me a tougher fight than Miesha Tate could ever dream about–but when that day comes, I’m still going to kick your ass,’” Pena recalled. “And I said to her, ‘We’ll see.’ So, of course, I want to fight Ronda. That was a fight I was gunning for before I tore out my knee [in 2014]. When I came back, she lost and ran off and hasn’t come back. But I have a feeling that she wants to come back.”
Pena Called Rousey ‘Joke’ of the MMA World
It’s not the first time Pena has taken aim at Rousey, who is a member of the UFC Hall of Fame. She previously poked fun at Rousey’s expedited exit from professional fighting, calling her a “joke.”
“She’s kind of a joke in the MMA world now, because she’s a — what is the word? — sellout,” Pena told MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani. “Like, a little bit of a sellout there. I mean, I guess I understand, right? It’s like, pro wrestling is fake, you get paid millions of dollars, I get it. But for me, for real s–t, for like the ‘you’re the real, real deal,’ I would say that that’s in the UFC. And if she ever wants any of that real smoke, I’m ready.”
While Pena is game for the challenge, the likelihood that Rousey would step back in the octagon is slim to none. While speaking on her YouTube channel in 2020, the now 35-year-old said she’s content with her accomplishments.
“There’s not a day that goes by that people aren’t telling me to fight,” Rousey said. “I have to try and think of it as, ‘Would I rather be the greatest of all time, or have everybody think I’m the greatest of all time?’ It used to be so important to me to have both. But now it’s got to the point where I don’t want to sacrifice myself and my family to prove that anymore to a bunch of people that don’t give a f–k about me.”
Pena Will Have to Defend Belt Against Amanda Nunes
While calling out Rousey might be fun, Pena has some more urgent issues to worry about, with Amanda Nunes hungry to get her belt back after being knocked out in a shocking result back at UFC 269 in December of 2021.
“Her eyes were getting as big as plates, and I could see her wilting,” Pena said. “In that moment, I started thinking, ‘I think I could finish her on my feet. I think I might be able to f—ing knock her out.’ And all I could see was a sea of white, which were my trainers jumping around shooting, ‘Go! Press her! Press her!’”
The two are now serving as rival coaches on The Ultimate Fighter, with their rematch to follow. A date has yet to be determined on when they’ll fight for the strap.