Jessica Penne, former Invicta FC atomweight champion, will try her luck with The Ultimate Fighter tryouts later this year instead of returning to Invicta and attempting to recapture her title.
She first made her intentions known on Twitter in January:
She posts a record of 11-2, with her only two losses coming to Zoila Frausto Gurgel and Michelle Waterson. The bout against Gurgel was at 115 pounds, which is the class that she will be moving back to for her TUF Season 20 bid.
The Californian dropped her title in a Fight of the Year candidate against Waterson. The match concluded when Waterson secured an armbar in the fourth round.
Penne's final Invicta FC fight was a dominant victory over Nicdali Rivera-Calanoc. She finished the bout via a rear-naked choke in the first round. She laid claim to being the top contender to Waterson's strap, but with this news, the rematch is off the table.
Currently, the cast of the upcoming season features 11 of the top strawweights from Invicta FC:
|Current TUF 20 Cast|
|Carla Esparza||9-2||Invicta FC Champion, Ranked No. 2|
|Claudia Gadelha||11-0||Ranked No. 3|
|Joanne Calderwood||8-0||Ranked No. 4|
|Tecia Torres||4-0||Ranked No. 6|
|Felice Herrig||9-5||Ranked No. 9|
|Bec Rawlings||5-3||Ranked No. 10|
|Rose Namajunas||2-1||2013 Submission of the Year Contender|
|Emily Kagan||3-1||Jackson's MMA Fighter|
|Alex Chambers||4-1||Only Loss to No. 8 Mizuki Inoue|
|Julianna Lima||6-1||Only Loss to No. 7 Katja Kankaanpaa|
|Paige VanZant||3-1||Youngest Cast Member (19)|
|Rankings via MMARising.com|
The remaining five spots in the house will be determined via tryouts to be held later this year. A strong performance at the tryouts does not, however, guarantee a spot on the show. There will also be interviews with producers as well.
Per her appearance on MMAjunkie Radio, Penne does not think that will be an issue: “I think that I’m comfortable enough with myself and my personality to where I can show who I really am. It’ll appeal to them.”
She has a fantastic ground game and has continued to develop her stand-up. More importantly for her move back to 115 pounds, she has the physical attributes that could make her a dark-horse contender.
She stands at 5'5”. That was tall for the atomweight division, and she will still hold height and reach advantages over most of the strawweights as well. Given the amount of time before the tryouts and the filming of the show if she is selected, she can add muscle and strength to accentuate her physical gifts.
If she performs well at the tryouts, the UFC would be foolish not to add her to the cast of The Ultimate Fighter. She brings in all of the physical tools to compete, and she has name value in the women's MMA community.
The addition of Penne to the cast would cement the season as one of the best ever in terms of quality of competition. The season already boasts six of the top 10-ranked women in the world, and Penne is ranked No. 2 at atomweight.
The Ultimate Fighter Season 20 is shaping up to be one of the most compelling installments to date, and it will all be capped off by the final two survivors battling for the inaugural UFC Strawweight Championship on the show's finale.