Every season of The Ultimate Fighter ends up casting a few competitors as favorites and a few as villains, but there was no more polarizing character on Season 18 that Team Tate fighter Julianna Pena.
From the day she stepped foot in the house, her fellow cast members lashed out at her behavior, how she was approaching the competition and any other number of annoyances that quickly turned her into the house wretch.
Looking back on the season just days away from the TUF Finale where she will battle former housemate Jessica Rakoczy for the chance to become the first ever women’s champion of The Ultimate Fighter, Pena believes her placement as the most hated member of the cast came from one place: Shayna Baszler.
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It was almost like a high school popularity contest.
Pena eliminated Baszler from the competition in the first fight of the season in what was considered a pretty major upset at the time. As soon as that happened, Pena felt a shift in the emotional upheaval in the house.
"I know a lot of the girls came in there being friends with Shayna (Baszler), they had fought on the Invicta cards with her before so it was almost like a high school popularity contest. Shayna was Miss Popular Girl and she had all her little minions under her wing and what have you," Pena said when speaking to FOX Sports Live on Wednesday. "I don’t think they were expecting me to win. They were looking at me as the underdog and I took out a girl that’s ranked eighth in the world and they weren’t expecting that.
"I don’t think that they liked that and I think that’s why they pigeon-holed me in this big, annoying light."
Pena’s disdain for Baszler didn’t stop there because later during the same interview, she was asked who were really the most annoying members of the cast and her former opponent’s name came up once again.
"Anthony Gutierrez and Shayna Baszler. They were the most annoying," Pena said without pause.
Pena won’t have to look very hard to find Baszler on Saturday night at the finale because she will be in Rakoczy’s corner when they face off in the Octagon. Baszler suffered an injury prior to the finale and will be unable to compete on the show, but she has been given a contract in the UFC and will fight at a later date.
I feel like she’s just a spoiled rich brat. [on Rousey]
From there, Pena’s attention then turned to coach Ronda Rousey, who was on the other side of the team situation opposite Miesha Tate. Pena is a long-time friend of Tate’s and has trained with her in the past, so it’s clear where her loyalty was when the show first started. According to Pena, it didn’t take Rousey long to naturally end up on her bad side by just doing nothing more than being herself.
"What bugged me the most would be just her all around pretentious attitude. I feel like she’s just a spoiled rich brat and that’s what I think," Pena said about Rousey.
As for the fight at hand, Pena’s vitriol didn’t point much in Rakoczy’s direction. The worst thing she could think of to say about the veteran fighter is that at one point while they were living together Rakoczy told Pena she would ‘make a good housewife one day’ and at the time she wasn’t sure whether to take that as a compliment or an insult.
Other than that, Pena carried no ill will towards Rakoczy during the show, but now that has changed. She still likes Rakoczy as a person, but on Saturday night when the two of them face off in the Octagon, they will be sworn enemies — for at least 15 minutes that is.
"I’m just going to get in there and out work her at every opportunity that I get," Pena predicted. "I’m going to put the pace on her and keep the pace going, and I’m going to win this fight and I’m going to be crowned the first female Ultimate Fighter."