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The UFC women’s bantamweight champion finally has a fresh opponent for her next title defense, but that wasn’t the original plan. Once tangled up in a trilogy fight against Julianna Pena, the only woman who has ever taken her belt, Amanda Nunes was close to having a third go against the ‘Venezuelan Vixen.’ That is, she was up until a recent change of plans.
Originally, Nunes was expected to face Pena for their rubber match at UFC 289, but broken ribs forced the challenger out of the title fight, making way for a opponent to take a swing against the ‘Lioness’: Irene Aldana.
Amanda Nunes says UFC 289 was always meant to feature Aldana
It seems that the change of plans was not so unexpected for either Nunes, or the UFC. In an interview on ESPN’s YouTube channel, the Brazilian revealed that Aldana was always meant to be the next challenger to the women’s bantamweight title. In the conversation with Jon Anik, Nunes questioned if it was not Pena herself who found a way to make Dana White & Co. give her another shot once she learned about their plans to give the title shot to the Mexican contender.
“I feel less heavy,” Nunes admitted, when asked about the Aldana fight. “I always like to train for somebody else. When the third time came, it’s like ‘all right, let’s do this again, to put her away for good’. In the last couple of days, the news came out that [Aldana was stepping in for Pena] it was the original opponent. Me and the UFC were talking about it. They wanted Aldana next. It was always lined up to be Aldana. I don’t know if Julianna cried about it or whatever happened and she ended up getting one more opportunity.”
Nunes is ready to fight
For the champ, though, it sounds like it makes no difference whether she faces Pena or Aldana. Despite her predilection for facing fresh challengers, Nunes is most concerned with her ability to put on good performances against high-level opponents in the Octagon.
“Now we are here, with the original opponent.” Nunes explained. “I was ready for either one. My job is to defend the belt. Get ready, step in the cage and take my belt home with me. At the end of the day, I like to fight a good, respected opponent, too. Like Aldana. It’s going to be awesome, I can’t wait for this.”
UFC 289 goes down June 10th
In her last outing, Amanda Nunes (22-5) recovered the women’s bantamweight belt by defeating Julianna Pena via unanimous decision, in July 2022. The fight was an immediate rematch that followed the first encounter between the two athletes, when the Venezuelan Vixen shocked the world by beating the Brazilian via submission in December 2021.
The loss to Pena snapped Nunes’ legendary 12-fight win streak in the UFC, during which she won both women’s bantamweight and featherweight titles. In this six-year run (from March 2015 to March 2021) the 34-year-old scored victories over the biggest names in women’s MMA, including Cris Cyborg, Ronda Rousey, Valentina Shevchenko, Holly Holm and Miesha Tate, among others.
Meanwhile, Irene Aldana (14-6) earned a title shot after winning four out of her last five outings, which includes victories over Vanessa Melo, Ketlen Vieira, Yana Kunitskaya and most recently, in September 2022, Macy Chiasson. The 35-year-old’s last loss dates back to October 2020, when she dropped a unanimous decision to former champion Holly Holm.
Amanda Nunes is expected to face Irene Aldana at UFC 289‘s main event, on June 10. The card is scheduled to take place in Vancouver, Canada.
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