UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes can become the first woman to hold two titles simultaneously in the UFC, and that’s why she campaigned for a fight with featherweight queen Cris Cyborg.
The Brazilian stars are slated to meet at UFC 232 on Dec. 29 in Las Vegas, and Nunes spoke with MMA Fighting about the matchup, whether she should be considered the greatest female fighter of all-time if she is victorious, dealing with Cyborg’s “trash talk,” and much more.
Check the exclusive interview below.
How excited are you to try to make history in the UFC?
This is the moment. There wasn’t much going on in both divisions, so I think this fight will make a lot of noise in women’s MMA in a way we haven’t seen before. I’m very anxious. If you’re going to fight the best fighters, you have to be prepared for a war, a highly-anticipated fight. That’s what matters, to put on a show for the fans and continue to make history.
Conor McGregor and Daniel Cormier have achieved that in the past, winning two UFC belts simultaneously, but they haven’t fought someone who has been undefeated for 13 years like Cyborg. Do you think your achievement will be bigger than theirs?
I believe that going up a weight class already is a big achievement because several athletes are not willing to face that type of challenge. Going up and proving to myself I can do it and make history already is a big achievement. What Daniel and Conor did were great achievements, no matter if it was [against] a dominant champion or not. Fighting in a heavier weight class is a big achievement on its own. But when someone is so dominant, it does have a different taste, of course.
You told me years ago that you weren’t interested in moving up in weight or facing another Brazilian like Cyborg. What made you change your mind and start to campaign for it?
The desire to challenge myself. We got a point in my division… I was chatting to my coaches, Nina (Ansaroff) was there as well, and this idea came up. Din Thomas told me, ‘You have to do something different, you have to make history,’ something like that, and I said he was right. Some time after, Din Thomas said in an interview, ‘Amanda will fight Cris.’ I was like, ‘You know what, man, that conversation happened for a reason.’ It’s happened at the right time because my division is still moving and still needs some fights to really decide the next top contender for me. Cris’ division has nothing happening as well, there’s no one in that division, and the UFC kind of has its hands tied with that division. There are no big fights, too. I think it makes sense for the 135-pound champion to fight the 145-pound champion. There’s a lot of expectations around this fight. There’s no problem — it’s not about seeing who’s more Brazilian or who’s more patriotic, it’s about continuing to make history.
Do you expect to be seen as the greatest female fighter of all-time with a win over Cris Cyborg in December?
For sure. That’s the reason why I made this decision to move up a division. I want fans to remember me like that. Winning on December 29, I won’t ever leave fans’ heads, that’s for sure. Achieving that, being the only Brazilian woman to become two-division champion… The only woman, the only Brazilian, will be a huge achievement. It’s a big fight, a fight that will make history, and I will come out victorious one more time.
The fight is a done deal for Dec. 29, but Cris has complained a lot about the date because she wanted it to happen earlier. How was your recovery? Are you 100 percent already?
For sure. You need to prepare for every fight. Ever since I got to the UFC, I’m fighting at 135 and my body is adapted to that weight. To move up to another division, it’s whole other work. I won’t be fighting a nobody, I’ll be fighting Cris. She’s heavier out of camp, so imagine me fighting her tomorrow with my body adapted to 135, and her body already adapted to her weight class. I needed more time to make it happen, to adapt to 145 and make it a fair fight. I had a foot injury as well, so I was still coming back to training, to kicking, doing physical therapy, but it’s all good now. I’m training and waiting for the right moment.
You will be heavier than usual for this fight. How much do you weigh right now?
I will only move up a little bit [in weight], I won’t move up that much. I will move up to be well at 145. I’m weighing around 165 today. It’s not my intention to continue to move up, but to train well and comfortable at the weight I will be the day after the weigh-ins.
You have fought every type of opponent throughout your career, respectful opponents and others who talked trash, and Cris has talked a lot about you. She’s said that you called her out last year and then ran away from the fight. Does that make you more excited to go there and beat her?
Oh, for sure. There’s that animosity, the trash talk. That’s part of the show. Fans like to watch that. I’ve been through several situations in my career and nothing bothers me. I’m mentally prepared for this fight, and it’s all part of today’s MMA. It does give me extra motivation to get to December and continue to make history.
I asked Cris if she considered you her toughest opponent so far, and she said no. She also said you can put pressure in your fights, but can’t handle pressure. What are your thoughts on that?
Well, she can say whatever she wants. When the cage closes it’s only me and her, and we’ll find out. But she can think whatever she wants. I think Cris is a tough athlete and it won’t be an easy fight. When we’re in there, we have to be prepared for everything, and I’m prepared for everything. I know she puts pressure, and I will be prepared to deal with that pressure and counter the entire time — and also put pressure on the right time and win the fight wherever we are. It will be a spectacular fight. Don’t blink, anything can happen.
Do you consider her your toughest opponent?
We’ll see. MMA is full of surprises, right? I haven’t fought Cris yet, so I will be able to answer that after the fight.
She’s 5-0 since joining the UFC. What are your thoughts on her performances in the Octagon?
Cris is evolving a lot, she’s not [fighting] with zero technique anymore. She’s more technical now, more patient, so she has evolved a lot.
This is your first fight at featherweight since 2011. What are the differences in your body since that fight in Strikeforce?
It’s only about adapting. The speed, the weight. Your body changes a lot when you move down and adapt to that weight. I think the weight will be the only difference to me.
Do you plan on defending both titles if you’re victorious? Like you said, the division is pretty much empty right now.
We’ll see. My focus is to get this belt first, and then that would be my second step.
This is your first fight in Las Vegas since you had to pull out of a fight with Valentina Shevchenko because of your sinusitis in 2017. Is that under control?
It is. I’m on medication, medication that is allowed by USADA even on fight week, so it’s under control now. I don’t want to have surgery now because I don’t know what the consequences are, especially because it’s the nose, which is always a target for fighters [laughs]. I don’t know. I will have surgery in the future, for sure, but it’s under control now with medication.
Do you plan on going to Las Vegas some time before to acclimate?
I’m still thinking about it. We’re looking into everything to make the correct decision.