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UFC Bantamweight Champion Julianna Peña reflects on her journey in the UFC
International Women's Day

Letter To My Younger Self | International Women's Day

On International Women's Day, UFC Bantamweight Champion Julianna Peña Writes A Letter To Her Younger Self, With Lessons She Learned Along Her Route To The Top

To my younger self,

Sometimes life will seem a lot like a game or a match. While I wish I could give you a playbook on life so you can avoid heartache and failure, it’s actually because of lessons I learned through failures, injuries, heartbreak and more, that I am who I am today.  So instead of a playbook on life, all I can give you are the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

There are some things I wish I knew earlier:

Please know that high school isn’t the “end all be all.” The cliques and the gossip mean nothing.  Yes, learn what your teachers teach you; but forget what your friends think they know about life. Life doesn’t begin in high school, it begins after. After high school and college and even after your first job and your first love… Many moments will make you feel like you have hit a breaking point, but that is when life starts. Life starts after your “firsts.”

Julianna Peña: Letter To My Younger Self | International Women's Day
Julianna Peña: Letter To My Younger Self | International Women's Day

You don’t need to discover your passion by the time you’re seventeen. Live your life and you’ll discover your passion along the way — and when you do, you’ll know.

Nothing good happens after 11pm!

There’s a difference between settling and settling down. Never settle for a love that is less than extraordinary.  And when you’re ready to settle down, make sure it’s with someone who is your equal — someone who pushes you to be the best version of yourself. Someone who is proud of your successes and is there to help you rise up when you’re down.  You equally support each other’s dreams and goals. Find someone who is your equal match in every way.

There’s no doubt that there are many times in my life when I should have walked away; I should have turned the other cheek.  But what makes me me, and what’s gotten me to where I am, is that I face a challenge head on. I don’t walk away. I stand up and fight. Don’t lose that about yourself. But know when and where to pick your fights — because sometimes that can lead to more trouble than it’s worth.

It gets lonely at the top, so keep your family close. Remember to follow your own path, but be sure to carry with you the love, honor and traditions of your family. The bigger you grow, remember your roots — they’ll keep you grounded. Be loyal. Never forget where you came from, but always remember where you're going.

Glitz and glamour is just that — it’s fun, but it’s dress up. It’s make believe. Don’t compare yourself to others or to what you see on social media or in the press. Be the best you, because no one else matters. Focus on your number one star player: you.

Lead your life with dignity, class and respect and of course, a wicked good sense of humor. 

BE RELENTLESS. STAY RELENTLESS. Never quit. When you think you can’t keep going, let your mind be strong — it knows what you’re capable of. Let it lead you. Your brain hears you, so speak good things to yourself. Lift yourself up. Be your own superhero. Your body will go as far as your mind tells it to go. Speak positive and encouraging words to yourself. Love yourself first.

If it’s not a “f*** yes,” then it’s a no. “No” is a complete sentence.  If your gut instinct is “no,” you have your answer. The gut always knows. 

When you can help others, show empathy and kindness to those around you, but don’t get taken advantage of. This is a fine line and takes practice, but you’ll get it. Don't be overly sweet, or you'll get eaten.

Live loud and proud.

Believe in yourself. If you don't believe in yourself, how can you expect others to believe in you? Lead the masses. Break barriers. Stay relentless. And be proud of where you’re headed — I’m already here and I can tell you, you’re living your dream. 

Strength, willpower and determination will take you places. Stay true to yourself, and work hard. I'll see you at the top.

Julianna Pena
Future You, UFC Bantamweight champion