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Amanda Nunes: Roar of the Lioness

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Amanda Nunes wanted to be a soccer player. Now, she’s at the top of the world for punching other women in the face.

As a little girl from Pojuca, a small town 41 miles away from Salvador — the capital of Bahia, Brazil — Amanda would go to school every day, but studying wasn’t actually her thing. She was addicted to sports, and following in the country’s fascination for soccer was an obvious path. She was good at scoring goals, but she would always get herself in trouble for many reasons.

Amanda was an electric kid and would often get into fights in the streets of Pojuca. Her mother, Ivete, realized that sports would be a good way to get all that energy out of her little girl. Soccer was a good outlet, but capoeira, a traditional fight/dance brought to Brazil by the slaves, and still very popular in Bahia, would be even better.

 Courtesy of Amanda Nunes

Ivete loved fights — real fights, not the street fights that Amanda would eventually get herself into. Amanda’s uncle, Jose Silva, was a Vale Tudo fighter, and Ivete, who also trained boxing regularly, decided that contact sports were a worthy option for her daughters.

“My mother used to box, and I followed her footsteps into training,” Amanda says. “She loves fighting. My uncle used to fight Vale Tudo, and my mother even cornered him in some of his fights. She always says, ‘the first strike has to be yours. She can’t touch you before you touch her. You have to intimidate her.'”

Amanda started doing jiu-jitsu when she was 16 years old. One of her sisters, Vanessa, was already training on the mats and invited her to try it one day. Sure, why not, Amanda thought. That moment changed her life forever.

A lioness is born

Pojuca quickly proved to be too small for a talented girl like Amanda, so she decided to move to Salvador and live with Vanessa, who was already living there to train jiu-jitsu. Vanessa’s house wasn’t very close to the Edson Carvalho gym though, so Amanda made a tough decision: she would live inside the gym.

Amanda wasn’t the only athlete bunking at Edson’s, but she was the only female. It wasn’t easy, and her daily routine wasn’t exactly what many athletes dream of. Amanda would wake up every day at 4:30 in the morning and help her coach and other training partners clean the mats for the first class of the day.

She was determined though, and hungry. Surrounded by men and going back-and-forth with them every day in grappling, Amanda found her true passion.

“We all supported her right away,” says Valdirene, one of Amanda’s older sisters. “My mother put Amanda to train capoeira when she was young, and then boxing and jiu-jitsu. We literally supported her from day one.”

The young prospect, the only girl on a team with two lions on its logo, naturally became the Lioness.

Amanda quickly became the female face of the Edson Carvalho team. Literally. The young prospect, the only girl on a team with two lions on its logo, naturally became the Lioness.

“I was the only woman in the gym, and I was tough,” Amanda says, “so they decided to call me ‘leoa’ (lioness, in Portuguese). And people liked it.”

Amanda was succeeding in jiu-jitsu, winning every tournament she entered at blue, purple, and brown belts, and adding boxing to her toolbox was a natural evolution. Combine that with her capoeira skills, and she stumbled upon a mix that worked pretty well in mixed martial arts. So that’s what she did.

On March 8, 2008, Amanda entered a MMA ring for the first time. Her opponent, Ana Maria, was also a promising name in women’s MMA in Brazil, and proved to be too much for Amanda at that time. All it took was 35 seconds for Ana Maria to tap Amanda with an armbar. However, a disappointing outcome in her first try didn’t drive Amanda away from the ring.

She was back in action less than three months later, finishing Pety Barbosa in a mere 11 seconds. Five weeks later, her MMA record was finally positive after she scored another first-round finish. She had a meteoric rise in Brazil, winning five straight with devastating knockouts. And just like when she left her hometown, Salvador eventually became too small for Amanda’s talents.

“I knew she would have a bright future in sports,” Valdirene says. “My mother and I, we always believed in her. It was written, it’s her destiny. I never doubted she would become champion one day. We never doubted that.

“When she decided to move to the United States, that was when her career was already great in Salvador. Amanda was winning everything in jiu-jitsu and submission. It’s like she was moving another step closer to the top.”

In love with your punching bag

Amanda soon moved to New Jersey to focus on her MMA career, then to Miami, where she earned a chance to compete in Strikeforce. The American audience had no idea who the Brazilian fighter was, but her 5-1 record with five KOs was an obvious “can’t miss” signal.

Amanda’s North American debut was everything she could have asked for. Fighting as a featherweight, she mauled Julia Budd in just 14 seconds. Fourteen seconds. Amanda was a star in the making for Strikeforce, but her career took a big hit right after, when she lost to a more experienced fighter in Alexis Davis in her bantamweight debut.

 Esther Lin, Strikeforce

Amanda’s first loss in the United States taught her important lessons. And in the midst of all that, she met the love of her life.

But it wasn’t a love story right from day one.

“When I met Nina (Ansaroff), I lived inside the MMA Masters gym and wouldn’t go out for anything,” Amanda recalls. “My life was about waking up, training and sleeping. You know a horse with the halter? That was me. And that was a big issue. I had no social life. Every time my sister Valdirene called me from Brazil and asked me to go out and have fun, I said, ‘are you crazy? I want to become champion.‘”

Amanda was so obsessed with being the best female fighter in the world that she wouldn’t be okay even with having another female fighter in her gym. She still had that lioness spirit. And when this strawweight named Nina Ansaroff came into MMA Masters from American Top Team to help a mutual friend, Amanda welcomed her with a beating.

“My first sparring with Nina was really aggressive because of my ego,” Amanda admits. “A new girl in my gym? That’s how I thought back then. When Nina arrived in the gym, I was the only girl training at MMA Masters, so in my mind there should be no other girls training there. ‘I’m the lioness, there can’t be any other girls here.‘ It was really aggressive. I was trying to hurt her. I hurt her, I hurt myself, and there was no one in the gym to slow me down, to say ‘calm down, Amanda, she’s here to help you.’

Nina, who competes today in the UFC as a strawweight, is several pounds lighter than Amanda. She could have just walked away and gone back to American Top Team, but she insisted on staying.

“I was trying to hurt her. I hurt her, I hurt myself, and there was no one in the gym to slow me down, to say ‘calm down, Amanda, she’s here to help you.’”

Amanda had no idea, but the Lioness needed help, and not only in training.

“In the past, I was in the gym just to train. I saw Nina as a punching bag. But then I realized that she was my partner, and she helped me get where I am today,” Amanda says. “When we started hanging out together, I realized I should stop thinking about hurting her, and things started to get better.

“I started looking at Nina as a training partner, that we should help each other and not hurt each other. Everything changed. I looked at it with a different perspective. Meeting Nina made me change every day, even in training. When I spar with her today, it’s completely different. We’re helping each other out.”

Nina didn’t go to MMA Masters full time, but meeting Amanda made her change her plans. She started helping the Brazilian learn English, and taking her out of the gym to relax. From training partners, they evolved into girlfriends.

“It just started like that, as great training partners. And over time, the friend that brought me ended up leaving the gym, but I stayed,” Nina says. “Seeing [Amanda] living in the gym, being very passionate, very talented, I had the means of helping her. I was established in the United States at the time and I was able to put her in a comfortable spot, be there for her, take her out to eat, stuff like that. Just being a friend. From there, it kind of just grew. It wasn’t something intentional, neither one of us was looking for a relationship, and it kind of helped each other in a way.

“I was still fighting, she was fighting. You know, the struggle between fights, not having a fight scheduled. She was just coming off of a fight, she lost. I was just coming off of a couple-fight winning streak that kind of put us in a spot that helped us both. From there, we literally hadn’t left each other’s side for four years. It’s been great.”

UFC 200 photosEsther Lin, MMA Fighting

“Nina is with me 24 hours per day, so she knows everything about me,” says Amanda. “She knows how I react when I’m doing every little thing, from listening to music to fighting, and she helps me work with my emotions. If there’s someone who can help me being by my side every day, that’s Nina.”

The two were a couple, but they never stopped being training partners.

“It’s hard to spar with her now because I don’t want to punch this face anymore,” Amanda says, laughing.

“I always trained with men, and always had to use all my power and strength to win in the gym. When I tapped men in training, I thought if I finished a man, the fight will be easy. But that’s not how it works and not how I should think. A fight is completely different, and that became an issue.

“I’d catch boys in training and think I’d break girls in the fight. Training with women maybe became even a bigger challenge, especially mentally. I started to understand things with time. But Nina was perfect. She showed up in my life to help me.”

Little Haiti

When Strikeforce died, Amanda found a new home at Invicta FC. Almost a year after that loss to Davis, the Brazilian was back in action in Kansas City against Raquel Pa’aluhi. It took less than three minutes for the Lioness to celebrate another victory — her first submission win in mixed martial arts.

But that happiness didn’t last long. Months later, she was down again after a decision loss to Sarah D’Alelio.

And so Amanda changed a few things in her life. After briefly living at Nina’s father’s house, the Pojuca native found a place in Little Haiti to live with her girlfriend and training partners. It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t even safe. But it was close to the gym, and that was all they needed.

Amanda, the girl who once thought that living inside the gym and thinking about fights 24 hours a day would make her a champion, experienced things she never expected when she first left her small town in Bahia.

 Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

“That place, you need be alert at all times,” Amanda says of Little Haiti, where she moved to in 2013. “We shared a two-bedroom house with seven friends. It was tough, but it’s part of life.

“I used to live in the gym before that, but I had no time rest at all. You’d get off the mat and go to bed. If you can’t sleep, you’d go back to the gym to hit pads, punching bag, things like that. But resting is important. If I just go away and not think about fighting at all, I’m fine. When I started acting like that, my career changed.”

Not that it was bad because it was a small house with nine people living in it. That wasn’t comfortable, of course, but living in fear all of the time was driving Amanda and Nina nuts.

“Living in that house was positive for my career because I left the gym, but at the same time we were anxious all the time,” says the Brazilian. “I wouldn’t leave [Nina] alone at home. When she was alone at home, I’d call her and be on the phone all the time. At night, when I had to take my dog out for a walk, I’d just open the door and let him go out, but even my dog didn’t want to stay outside. Even the dog was scared [laughs]. It wasn’t a dangerous, dangerous neighborhood, but it was scary.”

And by scary, Nunes means terrifying.

“Our windows, our entire house was bulletproof,” Nunes says. “And we had a gun inside the house too. I had a license, and Nina did too. Nina’s father went there once to see the house and he said, ‘you’re leaving the place tomorrow morning.’ But I had a fight coming up, and we had to deal with that for a little longer.”

Amanda, who by that time had become the first Brazilian female fighter to sign with the UFC, was scheduled to meet Sheila Gaff at UFC 163 in Rio de Janeiro, so moving to a different place wasn’t an option.

“Police were always in the neighborhood. People even fought for chickens,” Amanda remembers with a laugh. “The chickens would leave their eggs next to our door, and people would come in to steal it at night. Nina woke me up once to watch people fighting for eggs. If you left something outside the house at night, it wouldn’t be there in the next morning. My friend’s motorcycle got robbed. My bike got robbed. That’s how things worked there. Drug dealers, regular people stealing things.”

The loss that changed everything

Amanda became the first Brazilian women to fight in the UFC, and also the first one to win a bout in the Octagon by brutalizing Gaff in front of her countrymen at Rio’s HSBC Arena. Three months later, Germaine de Randamie was the victim. Two knockouts in two fights in the UFC cage, and Nunes was once again a top contender in the sport. But, like in the past, her inconsistency struck again.

Amanda was booked against Cat Zingano at UFC 178. A win could’ve gotten her a fight against MMA superstar Ronda Rousey for the UFC belt, but after a great start, the Lioness faded. In the third round, Zingano ended the fight and stole away her title shot.

“Nina was so nervous before the Cat Zingano fight, I couldn’t even look at her,” Amanda recalls. “Nina was so nervous, I got worried. I guess Nina knew I was about to lose and she didn’t tell me anything. She never acted like that before, so something was wrong. When I left the Octagon, she said ‘I knew you would lose, but I didn’t want to believe that was about to happen.’”

UFC 178 weigh-in photosEsther Lin, MMA Fighting

Nina admits now that she was worried going into that fight, and the reason why is because Amanda wasn’t acting like she used to.

“I didn’t have good feelings going into that fight,” Nina says. “There were things going on in the gym that were changing her personality, which will always reflect on your career or who you are. She has a great personality as it is, and changing that would never benefit her. I feel that only hurt her. I was her girlfriend at the time, we were together for a couple of years, so I didn’t want her to change. I loved the person she already was, and I felt like I had a right to tell her that.

“Sometimes in a relationship, you listen. Sometimes you don’t. If you tell somebody ‘you’re changing,’ sometimes they might take it as offensive. But she knew, and I knew, we have the best interest in each other’s hearts and career. If you’re going to a fight, you should feel right. That was the first time I was in Amanda’s corner that she lost, and I never wanted her to ever feel that way again.”

That was Amanda’s fourth loss in 15 fights, and she knew something needed to be done. And it had to start from inside.

“After my fight with Cat Zigano, I woke up,” Amanda says. “There’s something wrong here. I train well all camp, but on fight night I can’t control myself. Nina is a psychiatrist and she was the key for this discovery. All the things I did to evolve, she was there for me.”

As it turns out, the answer for her problems was in her childhood.

Amanda was always just too excited for sports, to the point where she never found time to relax. And that’s exactly what she needed.

“When I was a young kid living in Pojuca, my mother was a single mother and used to work a lot to raise there kids, so she didn’t have time to see that,” Amanda recalls. “I had this problem since I was a young kid. I talked to my school teachers recently, and they said ‘yes, Amanda, you really had that problem.’ I was too anxious, I don’t know how to explain it. Hyperactive. I couldn’t concentrate. I’m working on that now, and know what I’m doing wrong.

“I never sat down to read a book, for an example. I couldn’t stay still reading a book. That was not for me. But I changed that. I found time for myself, to meditate, to read, to play with my dog, to go out with Nina, to go fishing or play soccer, to fire guns. Those are things I didn’t do before because all I wanted to do was train. I left the gym thinking about what I’d do in the gym the next day. I had to drastically change my life.”

Amanda had a psychiatrist in Nina, but sometimes those close to you can’t see things clearly. So Amanda decided to talk to a professional that wasn’t emotionally attached to her, but it turns out that Nina’s advice was on point.

Amanda was always just too excited for sports, to the point where she never found time to relax. And that’s exactly what she needed.

“I showed him everything we were working on together, and he said ‘keep doing what you’re doing. You’re on the right way.’ And it worked,” Amanda says. “Man, I’m so mentally better now. I put it in my mind that I had no time for books, and that helped the issue never go away. When you look at the situation, you realize you have a problem and you need to fix it, and you do whatever you have to to do fix it.

“Before I’d see books and think, ‘I have no time for this, I need to watch this video about a new technique, or watch this girl’s fights because I might fight her one day.‘ I’d focus on everything and wouldn’t let other parts of me relax. I wasn’t paying attention to other things that were important for an athlete. If I can’t focus, if my head isn’t empty and concentrated, it makes no difference if you’re a good athlete, if you’re not prepared mentally for that moment.”

Self-help books, music, swimming, meditation; it all helped Amanda find a balance she never had in her life. She was so pumped up all the time that it affected her performance inside the Octagon.

Still, suffering her first UFC loss made Amanda so disappointed that she considering giving up the idea of living in the United States and moving back to Brazil. She contacted Andre Pederneiras and asked if she could visit Nova Uniao in Rio de Janeiro. But before she could give the transition more thought, Nina suggested making a shorter trip to American Top Team.

“The only time I considered moving back to Brazil was when I lost to Cat Zingano and wanted to get some rest, be with my family. I wanted to stay close to the people I love,” Amanda admits. “When I left the cage, I sat down with Nina and said, ‘something is wrong here. I need to change. To become champion, this change has to come right now.’ After that fight, I went back home and started working on changing the next day. We went online and looked up for things athletes went through, things like I was going through. My mind would consume my body’s entire energy.”

“I talked to ‘Dede’ about training at Nova Uniao, but then I visited ATT and everything changed. I was training in Miami, but I wanted a gym where I could do my entire schedule the way I wanted. When I visited ATT, that made me change my plans. I wanted to train in a gym exactly like ATT. You talk to the coach and decide your schedule. I don’t need a babysitter. I know what I have to do, that I have to train, and I wanted a gym that thinks like that, too.”

And like in any great relationship, Amanda helped Nina stay focused on her own career as they helped each other.

“I was already a part of ATT even before I went to MMA Masters, and I stayed there because of Amanda. She was the only reason I really stayed,” Nina says. “She was my main training partner and we only really needed each other. Some people don’t really need coaches, and we were kind of in that spot. We had each other. We were going to the gym even when it was closed to train with each other. When I first met her, I was kind of in a limbo, but she’s the one that made me believe ‘no, no, you can fight, let’s do it together.'”

 Courtesy of Conan Silveira
The champion

The move paid immediate dividends. Amanda’s first camp at American Top Team culminated in a first-round finish over Shayna Baszler. Five months later, another impressive first-round finish over Sara McMann put a Brazilian on a different level. Against Valentina Shevchenko, a win would give her a shot at the UFC bantamweight championship.

As always, the Brazilian fought hard and emerged victorious, but after slowing down in the third round, many questions remained unanswered. How would Amanda perform in a five-round bout with Miesha Tate, one of the most durable and experienced fighters in the game?

The answer would come at the historic UFC 200 event on July 9, 2016, when Tate was set to put her title on the line for the first time against the Brazilian.

In a card full of huge stars, from Jon Jones to Brock Lesnar to Jose Aldo to Cain Velasquez, to name a few, the bantamweights were not in the spotlight. However, Jones’ doping case days before the event ended up moving the girls up into the main event. The biggest moment of Nunes’ career would come at one of the biggest shows in the sport’s history.

“I’m gonna be honest with you, it was the least nervous I was for any of her fights when that one happened,” Nina says. “I trained with her for most of that fight, and every day I saw her brain change the way it needed to be for that fight, and there was nothing that I felt Miesha was gonna stop Amanda. I knew 100 percent, Amanda was gonna win that fight. There was no doubt in my mind.”

UFC 200 photosEsther Lin, MMA Fighting

Amanda didn’t answer questions about her gas tank simply because she never had the chance. The Brazilian ran through the champion in the opening round, blasting her with vicious strikes before locking in a rear-naked choke and forcing the champion to quit.

“I couldn’t sleep for a week after the fight,” Amanda says. “It was a historic event. It had to be perfect like that. The whole card started to change on fight week. I said ‘God, please, make it big for me. Give me this present.’ And He gave me it. Everything I trained, I was able to do in the fight. I was thrilled. Brazil had no UFC belts until that night. Jose Aldo won the interim title earlier that night, but it was the interim belt. I became the first Brazilian women to win a UFC title. That is huge.”

Watching the love of her life win the UFC championship, Nina — who had no doubts in her mind that Amanda would be successful — freaked out.

“I was the most calm I’ve ever been. But when it happens, you’re still shocked,” Nina says. “You know it’s gonna happen, but you’re still, like, ‘oh shit.’ As soon as the referee separated them and she walked over to me and gave me a hug, ‘you did it.’ I knew she would, but seeing it, and seeing it the belt around her, it was motivational. I can’t even explain it, really. I can’t. It’s too much.

“I knew she would (win), but seeing it, and seeing it the belt around her, it was motivational. I can’t even explain it, really. I can’t. It’s too much.”

“I thought, maybe a week before the fight, that it was going to be a knockout in the first round, but there’s one particular drill we were doing every single day coming up to the fight, me shooting on her, she defends it, takes the back, and gets the rear-naked choke. And literally two minutes before we walked out the locker room, she did the drill and I turned to her and said, ‘it’s gonna be this.’ And she finished like that.”

Amanda Nunes became the best bantamweight on the planet after training with a strawweight. Some things can’t be explained.

“We match perfectly in training,” Amanda says. “I’m a bantamweight and she’s a strawweight, but we’re at the same level. For example, for my fight against Miesha, I trained with Nina and some other girls in the gym. I only trained twice with men. Nina gave me more trouble in training than Miesha in the fight.”

UFC president Dana White entered the Octagon and wrapped the belt around Amanda’s waist, and it was finally official: she was the baddest female 135-pounder in the world. But the glory of UFC 200 didn’t change a thing about who she was outside of the fight business, when she’s not punching other people in the face.

“She’s humble. That’s really important,” ATT coach Conan Silveira says. “Usually when someone reaches the top of the world, becomes UFC champion, and starts to worry a lot about that, it changes the way you act. Amanda knows how to deal with that, she doesn’t let anything enter her head. She fights because she loves it. Being a champion is not an eternal thing. This phase will pass one day, and you have to know how to deal with that.”

Pride

Amanda not only made history by becoming the first Brazilian female fighter to win a championship belt in the UFC, she also became the first openly gay athlete to win UFC gold. It immediately became a big deal in the United States, especially in times where cases of homophobia continued to pop up around the country. Amanda raised the LGBTQ flag with pride, but admits that media and fans turned it into a bigger deal than she had planned.

 Courtesy of Amanda Nunes

“I never had to open myself about this,” Amanda says. “For me, it was all natural. It’s normal. If you start a new relationship tomorrow, you don’t need to announce it to the world. I don’t need to explain anything to anyone. The only thing that matters to me is being happy. I’ll fight until the end for what makes me happy. I’m happy, so nothing else matters.”

“We’ve been together for four years. This is not something new,” Nina adds. “But because she’s a champion now, it’s new. Now it has to have a name. When you say ‘openly,’ makes it seem like we’re strong. We were always strong together, and we never needed to make an announcement. Is that what we had to do for people to recognize us? It doesn’t bother us, you can say whatever you want.”

And living in a society that can be stupid sometimes, especially online, both Amanda and Nina learned to ignore comments.

“Someone can show up here and say a bunch of shit to my face, and I’ll laugh at him because I don’t care,” says the champion. “But it’s been fine so far.”

Here comes Rousey

Life is good for the champ.

Amanda’s Little Haiti days are in the past. After living a brief time at Miami Gardens, she and Nina moved to Casa Palma, which they describe as “one of the coolest places of Coconut Creek.” With the gym just around the corner, the reigning UFC bantamweight champion celebrates life as she waits for her first title defense.

At first, Amanda had no idea what would happen. Rousey was the division’s biggest star, but she was still silent while Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Pena campaigned for a shot at the gold.

“It took so long for the UFC to schedule my next fight, I knew something big was coming,” Amanda says. “I’ve been asking for Ronda ever since I won the belt. There were rumors about her return, a potential fight with Cris Cyborg and all that, but I saw those rumors starting to fade, so I knew it was highly likely that Ronda would be my next fight. I started posting things on social media to make it happen, calling Ronda out, and it worked.”

The fight she always dreamed of since signing with the UFC was set for Dec. 30 in Las Vegas. To cap off a perfect year, Amanda will have the chance to beat one of the biggest stars in the history of the sport at UFC 207 — but she throws all of the pressure over to the challenger.

“Ronda is the one who has to be worried,” Amanda says. “She’s the one who’s coming back. I’m fine.”

Looking at the situation from the outside, Nina always knew that Rousey would be a life-changing opportunity for Amanda.

“People hate [Rousey] for whatever reason, because she was seen as the most dominant, best female athlete there is. [But] the only way people would see [Amanda] as the best is beating her.

“That’s the fight I wanted the most for Amanda because even before Amanda had the belt, or even before Ronda decided to take time off, it was always about beating Ronda,” Nina says. “People hate her for whatever reason, because she was seen as the most dominant, best female athlete there is, and the only way people would see [Amanda] as the best is beating her. It’s a big accomplishment to have.

“It’s not hating against Ronda. At all. What Ronda did was great, and only because she’s so great it’s gonna make Amanda even greater than that. That’s the only reason I wanted her to fight Ronda.”

For the biggest fight of her career, the pride of Pojuca will bring a piece of her past with her on the way to the Octagon. On Dec. 30, when she walks out to the cage to battle Rousey, Amanda will have her sister Valdirene in her corner. “Val”, as the champion calls her, barely has any training experience, but Amanda doesn’t want her there for fighting advice.

“I was always around for her fights, watching it and sending my energy,” Valdirene says. “I never wanted to be in her corner. I always travel to watch her fights, and it doesn’t make any difference if I’m in her corner or not. I was never her corner, and I don’t think it will change that much because I’m always there for her, no matter what.”

Valdirene was there in the past when Amanda won, and she was there when Amanda lost too. For Conan Silveira, having a family member in a fighter’s corner brings benefits that transcends any combat experience.

“She was never part of her training, but there’s an emotional and mental aspect that is really important,” Silveira says. “Having her sister in the corner, that energy is good. They love each other, and that’s great to make you feel better in the fight. The coaches that were part of her training will be there with her, obviously, but it’s not a problem. We do the homework in the gym, on fight night is time to execute.”

“Fighting is like an orchestra and the maestro,” he continues. “Everybody knows when to play, and what to play, and the maestro only starts it. (Valdirene) won’t have anything technical to say, the coaches will be there for it. Her role there is to give Amanda good energy. What Amanda feels with her there is what matters. I don’t think she needs to say anything. It’s a tense moment where you need to make decisions pretty fast, but none of that works if you’re not calm.”

With fighting running through her veins, Amanda enters UFC 207 surrounded by love, and the Nunes family can’t predict a different outcome if not the victory.

“Ronda was a champion in judo, an Olympic medalist, had the support from her mother, who bet everything she had in her career. But good athletes lose eventually, right?” Valdirene says. “I believe it’s my sister’s time to reign. Ronda has done it, it was good while it lasted, she did what she could. But I believe that Amanda is better than her today.

“Amanda is not replacing Ronda because she’s not there to be replaced. But it’s Amanda’s time to reign in the UFC. My sister is the better fighter. I have no doubt.”

“Rowdy” lost the UFC gold in November 2015 when she suffered a brutal knockout loss to Holly Holm in Australia, and questions regarding her focus and hunger have remained unanswered ever since. But Amanda won’t waste a second thinking about it, and Silveira just hopes Rousey is at her best after such a long layoff.

“I hope Ronda comes in a way she never came before,” says the ATT coach. “It’s easy to find details in your opponent that makes you train less and not prepare the way you should. If Ronda shows up there with only one leg and one arm, it doesn’t matter. You have to be prepared for every situation to avoid surprises. ‘She hasn’t fought in a year,’ or ‘she lost in a traumatic fashion.’ If you think about things that might make you train less, you’re in for a big surprise. You can’t have surprises in a fight. We trained really hard for it. It doesn’t matter if Ronda is undefeated in 50 fights or if she lost 10 in a row. It doesn’t matter.”

Silveira says it is “impossible to have an exact idea of what’s going to happen in a fight,” but that Amanda is ready to blast Rousey in the first round, or at least dominate the former champion for 25 minutes.”

But for Amanda, it’s a matter of being prepared in all areas.

“I don’t fear Ronda’s ground game, Ronda’s judo, nor her striking,” the champ guarantees. “I will be ready in all areas. Whatever happens in the fight, I will have an answer for it. That’s what gives me the advantage in this fight.

“And yes, I believe I will (retire Ronda Rousey).”

UFC 205 Weigh-in PhotosEsther Lin, MMA Fighting

Source:: mma fighting