Julianna Pena: ‘I live rent-free’ in Mayra Bueno Silva’s head, UFC 297 challenger should ‘up that dosage’

Former UFC bantamweight champion Julianna Peña hopes to return at International Fight Week for a rubber match with former two-division champ Amanda Nunes. Barring that, she’ll take a fight with Mayra Bueno Silva for the now-vacant title.

Silva on Saturday faces Raquel Pennington for the bantamweight championship in the co-headliner of UFC 297. But much of the heat she’s generated before the fight has been with Pena, who said their rivalry started when Silva tested positive for a banned substance.

“It’s not my fault that I’m the most interesting thing about this fight, literally,” Pena said about Saturday’s title fight on The MMA Hour. “They want to be me, but there’s only one of one.

“Of course I want to be in there. I want to be in there every single time I can. I would literally fight every single day if I could. But unfortunately, that’s not the reality here. The reality is, this is a violent sport, and unfortunately, nobody can make me bleed my own blood except me. So I am my biggest enemy here and haven’t been able to get healthy.”

Pena said she’s resumed her normal training schedule and is doing everything in her power to return, possibly as early as UFC 300.

“I’m ready to go, I’m getting back in there, and maybe we can get Amanda out of retirement and get on that UFC 300 card,” she said.

Silva called Pennington a tougher fight for the belt and said Pena was a “money” fight. Pena agrees, if only because she recognizes an opponent that can sell a fight as well as she.

“This chick is the president of my fan club,” Pena said. “She is my biggest supporter. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and unfortunately, that mediocrity is trying to get to greatness. … She’s like that JV, bootleg version of myself in thinking that if you just squawk enough, you’ll get that title shot. And hey, that might have worked for some people in the past, but when I was talking crap, I was actually speaking facts about things that happened in my career. So I can back it up. I wasn’t out there just talking crap just to talk crap.

“I think she thinks that if she just runs her mouth enough, she’ll get a title shot, and lo and behold, you get a failed drug test and you get a title shot. The stars are aligning for her, and that’s great. But I don’t necessarily think it’s going to be as easy as it thinks it is. … This girl doesn’t even think she could beat Amanda and thinks I’m the easy fight. Whatever.”

Pena is nonetheless rooting for Silva to win against Pennington, the No. 2 women’s bantamweight in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings. In MMA’s current state, she said entertainment is just as important as fighting skills, and the No. 1-ranked Brazilian title challenger is not only a more a complete package but a more motivated opponent.

“She’s so hungry for it,” Pena said. “Literally, I live rent-free in her head and her whole objective is to fight me. So when you want something bad enough, you’re going to find a way to get it.”

Pena believes she got in Silva’s head by criticizing the Brazilian’s admitted use of the banned substance Ritalin to treat symptoms of ADHD; Silva’s most recent win over ex-champ Holly Holm was overturned by the Nevada Athletic Commission. The ex-champ doubled down on Wednesday with a crass remark about the medical condition.

“You can’t drink a cup of coffee without letting USADA know,” Pena said. “You can’t leave your house without letting them know where you’re going, so for her to fail and to not declare this medication that she uses for depression or whatever…look, nobody takes mental health more seriously than I do, and that’s why I’ve taken it upon myself to speak with her medical team, to up this dosage, and you’ve got a connection with Better Health, right? [A] promo code we could maybe give to her for after this beating that’s going to happen to her, because I’m going to make her dreams come true of fighting me.

“She’s going to need to up that dosage, and she’s really going to be in that depression after we face each other.”