Raquel Pennington wants Julianna Peña for first UFC title defense: ‘I’ve been waiting for that fight for 13 years’

TORONTO – Raquel Pennington already has in mind who she’d like to fight for her first fight as UFC champion.

The veteran fighter won the vacant UFC women’s bantamweight title this past Saturday. She did so by defeating Mayra Bueno Silva (10-3-1 MMA, 5-3-1 UFC) in the co-main event of UFC 297. And now, with the belt around her waist, Pennington (16-8 MMA, 13-5 UFC) would like to defend against former champion Julianna Pena.

“That’s the fight that makes sense,” Pennington told reporters at the UFC 297 post-fight press conference. “I honestly thought that for the world title it was going to be me and Julianna, but she’s still injured.

“That relationship just goes back to 2013 when we were both back in The Ultimate Fighter. Let’s just say I learned Julianna’s personality then, and it’s kind of one of those where you stay your way, and I’ll stay mine, but you get under my damn skin. I’ve been waiting for that fight for 13 years – whether the title is on the line or not.”

UFC CEO Dana White said at the post-fight press conference that Peña is likely next, but it’s not 100 percent sure, given there’s not a health status set on the former champion.

Pennington would ideally like to fight Peña next, but if not, she’s open to all comers.

“There’s talent n this division,” Pennington said. “Everyone is a challenge and people are constantly evolving and growing.  I do want to stay active, and I am getting older and stuff too. We have our family now, and we want to continue building on that. It’s just trying to find balance on everything. I would like to defend the title a couple of times and then that’s a wrap for me.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 297.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie