(Photo courtesy of Michael Castillo)
By CagePotato contributor DL Richardson
It seems we expect female fighters to fall into one of a few archetypes, and we want to know what we’re dealing with as soon as we hear her name announced. “The Karate Hottie.” “Crazy Bitch.” “Beauty but the Beast.” “Cyborg.” But what happens when you meet a fighter who doesn’t fit neatly into these pre-formed notions? How do you reconcile the image of a fighter who dotes on her Staffordshire terrier and professes love for the movies Labyrinth and Stardust with the image of a professional kicker of asses and taker of names? Stalking could lead to some interesting revelations about a person’s habits and character, but it could also land you in traction. Easier route: call her and ask her a bunch of questions. Meet Jessica Pene, a participant in Bellator’s upcoming 115-pound women’s tournament who enjoys working with children, long walks on the beach, and subbing dudes forty pounds heavier than she is.
Ask Jessica Pene about her favorite fighter, and she’ll mention a handful of names. She expresses interest in “old school” fighters like Fedor Emelianenko, members of the new wave of MMA like Gegard Mousasi, and female division standouts like Megumi Fujii. One name, though, comes up repeatedly: “I love watching BJ Penn fight,” she says, perhaps unaware of the parallels between them.
Like Penn, Pene doesn’t have to fight to pay the bills. Born to a white collar family in southern California, Pene could have cruised through life, gotten a degree at a university and moved on to a cushy job. With her good looks and quiet charm, Jessica Pene could have made good money in advertising or public relations, and never once had to worry about making weight, defending a takedown, or getting punched in the face. Pene wakes and trains when most of us are still asleep, not because she needs to put food on the table, but because she is and always has been athletically inclined. Like Penn, she doesn’t compete because she needs a big payday. Jessica Pene fights because, deep down, she’s a fighter.