UFC Boss and Her Coach Send Mixed Messages About Julianna Peña’s Severe Knee Injury

January 30, 2014
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Julianna-Pena-TUF18-FinaleUFC women’s bantamweight Julianna Peña suffered a devastating knee injury during training this week, but while the initial extent of the injury raised some eyebrows, everyone did a double-take on Thursday when UFC president Dana White took aim at Peña’s gym.

The Ultimate Fighter Season 18 winner was knocked out of her planned UFC 171 bout with Jessica Andrade due to the knee injury.

The initial prognosis was that Peña suffered tears in her ACL, MCL, LCL, meniscus, and hamstring, according to a UFC Tonight report. She will fly to Los Angeles next week to have surgery and begin rehabilitation.

Asked about the injury during a Thursday gathering with media, White unloaded on Peña’s gym and training partner.

“Apparently, when she came into the gym, and again, she was hysterical when I talked to her, crying,” White said, qualifying his comments. “She was training in her gym and one of her training partners, a guy, was saying to her, ‘oh, you’re wearing your Ultimate Fighter shirt.  We’re real scared,’ this, that and talking smack to her and basically attacked her, jumped on her back and started cranking her neck and the way that she fell, her knee blew out.

“The most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard in my life.  A year and a half to two years she’ll be out.  I told her, leave that disgusting gym and go somewhere else with new coaches, new training partners, whatever.”

MMAWeekly.com followed up with Peña’s coach, Rick Little of Sikjitsu in Spokane, Wash., who had a different take on the situation. He didn’t arrive at the gym until shortly after the injury occurred, but relayed how it was explained to him by other fighters at the gym at the time.

“It was supposedly just normal wrestling. He took her back and then she stood up with him on her back. She attempted to try a wrestling move, like a switch,” Little explained. “She twisted, and with the weight of him on her back, her knee buckled. So it was a twisting motion with him on her back.

“Her foot was planted, and when you hit a switch you spin real quick, and I don’t think her foot spun. I think her knee collapsed and all his weight fell on her knee while she was spinning. I think her side of the knee took a lot of her weight and his weight.”

He added that Peña shouldn’t have been grappling, as she had done an intense strength training routine on her legs about half an hour prior to the training session, which could have contributed to the prospects for injury.

But Peña is known for an insatiable work ethic, and it’s difficult to get her to stay out of the gym, even when it might be the best thing for her health.

Little’s description of the incident is in line with Peña’s public comments.

Although she hadn’t yet responded to an MMAWeekly.com request for comment at the time of publication, she told Fox Sports that the injury happened during a grappling session with a training partner when her knee locked up on the mat in an exchange and hyper-extended, which caused the knee to buckle underneath her.

Peña told Fox Sports that she was “devastated” after the injury occurred, which may have lead to why White’s understanding of the situation was somewhat different than what Peña’s coach told MMAWeekly.com and what Peña told Fox Sports.

Having just come off winning The Ultimate Fighter and leading up to her first fight in the Octagon outside of the reality show, Peña was surely emotionally charged immediately after the injury.

Little assured MMAWeekly.com that there were no prior incidents between Peña and her training partner, Josh Gow, who he described as friends both in and outside of the gym.

“They’re friends. They’re family friends. They’ve trained hundreds of times, and she corners him when he fights. There’s no bullying or nothing like that,” Little said.

“It’s a normal training accident from a gym that’s produced plenty of fighters and not had people pull out during camps or anything like that.”

Peña trains alongside the likes of Miesha Tate, Bryan Caraway, Sam Sicilia, and Michael Chiesa.

White did pull back a bit when it was brought to his attention during Thursday’s media gathering that Little had a much different take on the situation than what White’s understanding of it was.

“That’s so far from the story that she told me right after it happened and she was hysterical and crying.  Completely opposite story,” said White, which points to things never being as one-sided as they sometimes seem, especially during such an emotionally charged time.

“Completely different story than what she told me; so somewhere in the middle lies the truth.”

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  • Sir_Roy

    White’s just pissed he has to foot the medical bill while losing out on the PPV she will undoubtedly bring to the table. Seriously though, she’s young, has plenty of time to recapture her momentum. While it really sucks, and while I’m sure she could use the money now, odds are good she’ll come back golden.

    • TheCerealKiller

      LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL… “losing out on the PPV she will undoubtedly bring to the table”, trust me, she brings NOBODY to the PPV money! Ronda is the only female fighter anyone outside of hardcore fans knows.

      • drkdisciple

        well said!

      • Aimed With “V”

        Well, non-hardcore fans know her from TUF…

      • Seth

        Dumb comment to make there, pal. She is marketable. Especially with UFCs plans to go to South America and not actually Brazil, in near future. She can bring more viewers there, which would help for sure. And with Invicta coming up the ladder, TUF for womans and upcoming TUF Season for 115er, you would be suprised how many non-hardcore fans know female fighters in UFC and are rooting for them.

      • Darwin Jurado

        I think you misunderstand the meaning of hardcore fan. Sorry to burst your bubble here but based on your comments it’s evident you are not a hardcore fan. That’s ok however, welcome t the sport of MMA newbie!

        • Gary Fredericks

          Well ain’t this a first! An (ah*hem) “hardcore fan” defending the marketability of a product of The Ultimate Fighter, a show in which is usually used as qualifying an argument for calling someone a newb! LOL These boards have come full circle in it’s irony and hippocracy!

        • Maddawgmar

          While I won’t be as rude as some on ther people who post here, I will say you might have missed the meaning of his comment. If you read it again, he is basically stating a casual fan will only know Ronda. While hardcore fans will know others. “Ronda is the only female fighter anyone outside of hardcore fans knows.” I actually think he is spot on. Ronda and Gina are the only two fighters that has had any real mainstream appeal. Could Julianna have got there? Yes, definitely. But at the rate the Women’s division is moving she might get left behind before she is able to return. I hope that doesn’t happen but you never know.

          • Darwin Jurado

            Hey! hate it when I’m wrong. Missed that thanks for correcting me. NOW SIT DOWN!

          • Cyborge

            U have to add Tate in cyborge is the biggest star in women mma she just not in ufc she the female version of young V.Silva

          • Maddawgmar

            A hardcore fan would know them but an average viewer wouldn’t necessarily know them.

    • horace

      Julianna needs to maybe trying to just be a woman and not a man.

  • robc

    White isn’t footing the bill moron… They have medical insurance (and have had it for the last two years). I am certain he is upset that she will be out as she is marketable. The story Dana told about the guy insulting her and jumping from behind is a very specific set of details that her coach neglected to mention in his version. Given the coach was actually not there when it happened, I’m inclined to agree with the first version. The last thing any gym wants that trains UFC fighters is to piss of Dana White. She will likely back off her story as her gym could very easily be censured by Dana white. Look what happened with Golden Glory gym after the UFC bought Strikeforce. All the fighters got the boot. A lot of fighters could be out of work if Dana feels that his new TUF winner was intentionally jumped and injured. If she has two years layoff, her career is basically over. By then she will be so far out of the loop, coming back will be pretty tough. Just ask Dominic Cruz…


      I agree with most of what you say, however I do think you are a bit off the mark when you say Dana isn’t paying the bill the Ins is. Yes the UFC has Ins for the fighters, BUT… Who pays for that Ins ? That would be the UFC and believe me it would certainly not be cheap!! those premiums would be HUGE, plus injuries like this that are unneccessary and have huge payouts only increase the premiums. Plus if too many claims like this happen the underwriters of the insurance plan could just cut the entire plan. I remember when Dana first was talking about getting fighter Ins. he stated they werehaving a very hard time trying to get it as no companyies wanted to Insure MMA fighters. SO, Bottom line, Yes the UFC (Dana) really does flip the bill and stupid things like this can end up costing Everyone (fighters, The UFC, and the fans) in the long run.

      I agree with you totally that Dana’s side of the story plus the fact it came right from Pena’s mouth just seams to have that ring of truth to it, as you say the coach wasn’t there at the time and is hearing it all second hand from people in the gym. The other thing is Pena’s coach is going to try and save the gym’s and his buisness reputation . The statement I read that Little wrote ticked me off as he was trying to blame Pena for the entire thing. Saying she ‘goes too hard’ and doesn’t know how to quit etc. But… If Rick IS the Trainer and Coach isn’t it HIS responsibility as such to make Pena quit and or slow down so things like this don’t happen? I say yes!

      • sparky83

        im a builder have to pay my own insurence surely same for fighters

  • David

    What did Juliana say about the situation?

  • james j

    She needs to go Junior College. Cause now she needs a job. Her fighting career is over.

  • Scoobs

    Dana, you fat pig!

  • horace

    Woman belong in the kitchen and the bedroom not getting their faces smashed in by punches in MMA fights. Woman need to be woman and act like woman.

  • taylor2008

    I think she is telling the truth. The coach wasnt there so he doesnt know the truth. The last thing he wants is to have his gym blackballed. Why would she make a story like that up? Just to hurt her gym?
    I think it happened like she said.

  • teroothe

    I believe someone telling me what happen to them more than someone they know who wasn’t even there.

  • horace

    Julianna Pena needs to keep the makeup and lipstick slapped on her mug and try to look presentable enough to find a hispanic guy to cook and clean for and to entertain after mucho tequila.