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.


"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.

"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.

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."