Sicilia, a member of Sik-Jitsu Fighting Systems in Spokane, Wash., trains with recent The Ultimate Fighter winner Julianna Pena, and he understands the bantamweight standout's skill set and training regimen. He is well equipped to comment on the nature of her recent knee injury, and he thinks White received some misguided information.
Upon hearing the news, White unleashed on Sik-Jitsu and the team member involved in Pena's injury, calling the unfortunate event an act of "assault" and saying that Pena needs to leave the gym immediately (full comments via MMAFighting.com).
Sicilia, however, said nothing that happened was malicious or out of the ordinary.
"No, she wasn't assaulted," Sicilia told Bleacher Report. "I guess she was at the gym, just lifting, and she went from there to go grapple. I don’t know if she didn’t warm up or what her deal was, but the guy she goes with, he’s one of those little 35 pounders, and I guess they were just training, and he had her up against the cage and then jumped on her back to get his hooks in. I think she went for a switch or something, and it was just bad. He’s a little power pellet, you know? So, he’s a little buff guy. I wasn’t there, but I’ve heard it from everybody—what happened. It definitely wasn’t assault or anything like that."
According to Sicilia, Pena's injury was simply a freak injury—the type that can (and does) happen in mixed martial arts action. While Pena was accustomed to training with men at the gym, Sicilia admitted that sometimes the dynamic of having a woman on the mats is difficult to adjust to while still maintaining composure and full effort.
"I feel like we kind of got a girl thrown in the mix, and it's kind of hard to do the right things with her," Sicilia said. "With a bunch of guys, you can go as hard as you want. Obviously, you don’t follow up if you clip somebody, but we get after it. That’s why she’s tough, too, though. We’ve just never really dealt with girls at that gym."
While Sicilia said he was always able to dial back the intensity gauge when sparring with Pena, he mentioned that sometimes it was easy to forget that she was a girl and that she did require a bit of special treatment.
"I guess, obviously, we're dealing with a girl at our gym, but sometimes it didn't feel like that," Sicilia said. "Sometimes, I see her get dolled up, and I think, 'Holy crap! She is a girl.' She comes in, and she gets after it and starts throwing dudes around."
This ability to throw down with larger men at the gym, Sicilia feels, led to Pena's success on The Ultimate Fighter, and it helped to shape her skill set to this point in her career.
Now, in the wake of this injury, however, Pena will suffer a lengthy rehab, and she must make a decision concerning where she chooses to train moving forward.
In Sicilia's eyes, Sik-Jitsu is not to blame for the injury, and he confirmed that she is still coping with the emotions that come with such a career-altering event.
"I went and saw Julie after it happened; I brought a movie and hung out," Sicilia said. "She’s devastated. It’s just so emotional still. It wasn’t like he grabbed a submission and wouldn’t let go or anything like that. They’re the same size, so him jumping on her back—I don’t get how that happens, but it wasn’t like she just walked in the door and somebody 'cannonballed' on her or something weird...I really feel terrible for her. She was excited for the fight, and she was doing the right things. Even since the show, she had changed things and become a more professional fighter instead of just some girl who likes beating people up."