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UFC champion Amanda Nunes back at home, back in a main event to defend title

Amanda Nunes was told a year ago that she'd never return to a main event after falling ill before a scheduled UFC headline bout.

But talent can't be denied.

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"Exactly," Nunes said. "I'm the champion."

With the UFC returning to Brazil, Nunes' homeland, on Saturday night for a pay-per-view card, the women's bantamweight champion defends her belt against Raquel Pennington.

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"I knew everything would be fine," Nunes said of the previous admonishment from UFC President Dana White for bowing out of a fight against Valentina Shevchenko on the morning of a March 2017 card in Las Vegas.

"I was sick. I don't have anything to say sorry about. I want to fight at 100% If I'm not 100%, I'm not supposed to fight. It's happened in all of the sports over the years. The times a football player has an injury, he doesn't play the next game, or if you're a little sick, you don't go. This is the case in all types of sports. Now I feel great."

In coming home to defend her title for a third time, Nunes confronts a different test in the rugged Pennington.

After winning the belt from Miesha Tate, retaining it in a fight against Ronda Rousey in which she admitted she felt like the UFC hoped Rousey would win, and then confronting Shevchenko in September in a rematch of a tightly contested bout, Nunes now is the clear favorite.

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Does she lose something without feeling incredibly threatened?

"I'm ready. Rocky's tough. She will bring me the fight," Nunes said. "I'm very focused on my strategy and I don't think about anything else. It's very important to be dedicated to what I do. When I don't think about anything else, I don't get pressure. I relax and enjoy this moment. No emotion, just step in the cage.

"When you become a champion, you want to stay one. You have to stay good. You want to stay in this moment. I am."

Although featherweight champion Cris Cyborg has embraced talk of a showdown with Nunes, the bantamweight champion said she doesn't want to speak to that now.

"I need to fight Rocky Saturday," Nunes said. "I want to get a good victory and look my best. This is my country. I'm excited to give them a show."

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