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Raquel Pennington expects to fight for bantamweight title

Raquel Pennington

Raquel Pennington never fought Julianna Pena on season 18 of “The Ultimate Fighter” in 2013, but the two appear to be on a collision path ten years later.

Pennington told reporters at the UFC Hall of Fame over the weekend that it’s only a matter of time before the UFC offers her a fight against Pena for the women’s bantamweight title vacated by Amanda Nunes, who retired in June after a unanimous-decision victory over Irene Aldana at UFC 289.

“Absolutely (I should be next in line for a title shot),” Pennington said, via MMA Junkie. “I sat there and told them that when everything played out that I wanted to be next.”

Pennington and Pena almost fought in the season finale of “The Ultimate Fighter,” but Pennington lost by unanimous decision to Jessica Rakoczy in the semifinal round, while Pena submitted Sarah Moras in the second round to advance to the tournament final, where she defeated Rakoczy by first-round TKO.

Fans may finally get the “TUF” conclusion they were denied a decade ago.

“I feel like — [Pena is] tough; she’s absolutely tough,” Pennington said. “Being on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ with her, I won’t forget that. … Here we are 10 years later matching up, and I feel like it’s going to play for an exciting fight. I feel like it’s going to come down to whoever wants it more.”

Pennington is on a five-bout winning streak and is 6-3 since losing to Nunes by fifth-round TKO in her first UFC title battle in 2018.

Pena was slated to fight Nunes on that UFC 289 night, but she had to pull out due to fractured ribs sustained during training. Pena is the only fighter to have defeated Nunes in any of her 12 title fights, and she is only the second competitor in UFC history to do so.