Injuries are part of the game in MMA. In the short term, they can be overcome. Fights are re-scheduled and event shuffled every week, with new opportunities eventually coming around.
Still, of all the injuries which were suffered by UFC stars in recent years, there’s one that sticks out as the worst — at least in terms of timing.
In November 2013, Julianna Peña enjoyed finishing a star-making run at The Ultimate Fighter Season 18. Under the tutelage of longtime friend and training partner Miesha Tate, Peña earned the TUF 18 title at the finale. She also scored an upset of one of the season favorites in Shayna Baszler along the way.
But a devastating knee injury in training knocked her out of her next scheduled bout — and kept her inactive for more than a year.
Finally, this weekend at UFC Fight Night 63, Peña will make her return.
“The knee is great,” Peña said tonight on UFC Tonight. “You’re absolutely right, I’m sick of talking about it. But I’m better than ever.”
Peña, who is 5-2 as a professional, says she’s very familiar with her opponent on Saturday, Milana Dudieva. Dudieva, as it turns out, fought a Peña training partner, Elizabeth Phillips, last year.
“She’s a very strong judoka, with good leglocks,” Peña said. “She’s a strong girl, and she’s extremely dangerous.”
The Spokane, WA native has stated her goal to face Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey after perhaps two more bouts. But there’s work to be done first.
As Peña admits, “I’ve got to get the job done, in devastating fashion.”