Former UFC bantamweight champion Julianna Peña will not be competing in the first vacant title fight following Amanda Nunes’ retirement. Instead, Raquel Pennington will face Mayra Bueno Silva to determine the new champion at UFC 297 in Toronto on January 20.

Peña, who surprised everyone by defeating Nunes to win the title at UFC 269 in December 2021 but later lost in a rematch seven months later, was originally scheduled to have a trilogy fight against Nunes at UFC 289 in June. However, she had to withdraw due to an undisclosed injury, and Irene Aldana stepped in as a replacement, losing to Nunes in what turned out to be the last fight of Nunes’ career.

Peña explained her absence from UFC 297, stating that she has not fully recovered from her injury.

“I’m sorry you guys are going to be force-fed this horrible interim title fight—it’s going to be interim because they’re belt-warming until I come back,” Peña said during an appearance on The MMA Hour. “Apologies that I can’t compete, but my next fight will be for a title. Whoever wins between those two chicks, I’ll be fighting the winner.”


She continued, “I know that everyone didn’t believe me when I said I had to fall out when I was fighting Amanda [for the trilogy bout], but I legitimately did have an injury, and I’m still trying to heal from that. I’m not trying to give out every single injury because you have to keep a couple of cards close to the chest, but I am injured. I won’t be back until summer.”

Peña and Pennington have a history as competitors on The Ultimate Fighter 18 in 2013. Bueno Silva and Peña’s history, although shorter, has been marked by animosity. After Bueno Silva’s positive drug test for ADHD medication, Peña referred to her as “Cheatara,” and the two exchanged heated words.

While Peña does not have a preference for the winner of UFC 297, she believes that Bueno Silva’s victory could generate more interest and better box office numbers.

“I’m going to give a little shine to Raquel because I feel like over time, she has gotten better and better,” Peña said. “She’s definitely a durable fighter, capable of being a champion and getting that belt. I would say that Raquel has the veteran [experience] on her side.

“But at least Mayra is a good dance partner. Love me, hate me, whatever—I want you guys to be invested in my success, my failures, it doesn’t matter. I need you guys to watch the fights because I want you guys to watch me fight. The point of the banter back-and-forth [with Bueno Silva] is so I can have a dance partner to make it more exciting. With Mayra, I have that in her because she’s got a mouth, I’ve got a mouth, and we can go back-and-forth. With Raquel, it’s kind of like crickets.

“For me, it would be better if Mayra wins so we can make it more exciting for you guys.”

What are your thoughts on Julianna Peña’s absence from UFC 297 due to injury and her plans to face the winner for the title once she’s fully recovered? Do you think Mayra Bueno Silva winning the vacant title would make for a more exciting matchup with Peña? Leave us a comment below.

Steve Carrier

Steve is the Founder of Thirsty for News and Ringside News. He has been writing about various topics dating back to 1997. He first got into website development at the time and has been focused on bringing his readers the best professional wrestling news at it's highest quality.

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