UFC Bantamweight Champion Julianna Peña is a trailblazer and a powerful source of inspiration for anyone with big dreams.
Julianna “The Venezuelan Vixen” Peña is a fighter through and through. Not only did the 32-year-old Washington native recently become the UFC Bantamweight Champion in what many are calling the biggest title upset in UFC history, but she also fully epitomizes a fighter and champion mentality. This mentality — built around passion, resilience, and never giving up — has a lot to teach us all.
A source of inspiration
“For me, being a fighter means being able to enforce your will and to inspire people who feel like maybe they can’t do something in life,” says Peña. “I want to help them realize that they can do it and that they’re actually a lot stronger than they think they are.”
Peña is a prime example of the power of committing to a dream, working hard, and achieving a goal beyond what you may have thought possible. In December, she shocked the mixed martial arts (MMA) world with an incredible win against Amanda Nunes, the defending UFC Bantamweight Champion, who is widely regarded as the greatest female mixed martial artist in history.
Nobody saw it coming, but Peña never doubted herself. “My mom always told me that you can do anything you set your mind to,” she says. “If you’re passionate about something, you can obtain it.”
The power of manifestation
Even before claiming the physical belt marking her new status as Bantamweight Champion, Peña was espousing that champion mentality. “I was thinking and acting like a champion before I became one,” she says. “It sounds corny but you have to ask, believe, and achieve. First, you have to figure out what it is that you want, and then you have to believe that you can have it — and not just believe that you can have it, but believe that you already are it and that you already have that kind of life. Every day, I’d wake up and say, ‘I’m a champion.’ It was just a matter of time before I got that physical belt, but that belt is not indicative of who I am in my heart and who I am in my spirit. I already am a champion.”
A focus on family
Peña credits her success to her relentlessness and her never-give-up attitude. She also comes from a large Hispanic family who she says motivated her to do her best. Today, providing for her family is a major source of Peña’s drive and inspiration — and this drive has only grown now that she has her own daughter, four-year-old Isa.
“Becoming a mother has given me more to fight for and a reason to fight harder,” says Peña. “Even before I had children, I used to talk about being a mama bear fighting for her cub. People would be like, ‘What is this girl talking about?’ But I was using it theoretically.” The mama bear instinct comes naturally to Peña, who is the first woman to win a UFC championship after giving birth.
How does she balance motherhood with a career as one of the hottest MMA fighters in the world? “You just find a way to make it work,” she says. “My daughter comes with me everywhere I go. She comes with me to every practice. We’re a package deal.”
Exciting news ahead
The future is bright for Peña, and she’s at the peak of her career as one of the most exciting UFC fighters. “In the UFC, women are main events, women steal the show, and women get Performance of the Night bonuses just like the men,” she says. “We’re on the same platform as men and are treated as equals for the most part.”
Peña is also geared up to coach opposite Nunes on the next season of the UFC reality show The Ultimate Fighter, which she herself won back in 2013. The show culminates in a fight between the two coaches, and the rematch with Nunes is expected to be the biggest women’s fight of all time, according to UFC President Dana White. “I’m so excited that something I was manifesting came to life,” says Peña.