Amanda Nunes has visions she can’t deny.
Those same fierce beliefs that fueled her rise to UFC’s women’s bantamweight champion ,now take Nunes to her greatest undertaking yet.
Saturday night at the Forum, in the co-main event of UFC 232, Nunes (16-4) will attempt to hand women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg (20-1) her first defeat since 2005.
“If you’re a fighter, you want to break records and challenge yourself all the time,” Nunes told the Times. “I’m that one. I’m that person. I like to keep doing that.”
Cyborg is a destructive, power-punching force who’s leaned on her strength to shrug off punches and attempts to wrestle her into problematic positions on the canvas.
But Nunes disposed of former champion Ronda Rousey with her own barrage, and she won the belt by battering then-champion Miesha Tate on the ground.
“If I have the opportunity, I’m pretty sure I can do that [again]. Size doesn’t matter. I’m smart. I know how to beat [Cyborg], and I will do it. I’ll be strong and capitalize on everything at the right moment,” Nunes said Friday after weighing in one pound heavier than Cyborg, at 145 pounds. “She’s definitely more powerful and stronger. We all know that.”
Victory seems unlikely — the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas has Nunes as a 2-to-1 underdog — but Nunes’ belief has carried her to the top. Before fighting Tate, she projected that both her and her partner, Nina Ansaroff, would one day become champions.
On Dec. 8 in Toronto, with Nunes in her corner, Ansaroff upset Claudia Gadelha by unanimous decision and has risen to No. 3 in the UFC strawweight rankings. Nunes says the delight she exuded that evening was on par with the reactions to her title victories.
“It was amazing. I see everything is going the way we planned it. To see that win was amazing. It was so very important for her and now she’s the No. 3 fighter on the planet … I’ve always said she was going to be a champion from day one,” Nunes said. “Now, we are almost there.”
While Cyborg initially expressed some reluctance to meet a fellow Brazilian in the clash of champions, Nunes pressed for the fight. And not to take Cyborg’s title or mantle.
“This is about the moment, about what’s going on in women’s MMA right now,” Nunes said. “As a fan, you see this fight and think, ‘Wow! This is going to be amazing!’ I’m not trying to take any shine from her. She’ll always shine because she’s done so much for the sport. No one will forget her.”
Despite dominating Rousey and sending her to retirement two years ago this weekend, Nunes hasn’t received the same acclaim or exposure that Rousey enjoyed.
Defeating Cyborg would give Nunes a fourth victory over a former or current champion, with UFC President Dana White declaring that Saturday’s winner will receive the “baddest woman on the planet” moniker he previously reserved for Rousey.
But would victory result in the same embrace by the public?
“I don’t think about the embrace. Honestly. I’m very happy with my life. I have everything that I want,” Nunes said. “There’s no reason to be sad about anything. I’m in the best part of my life.”
Main Event: Jon Jones (22-1) vs. Alexander Gustafsson (18-4) for the UFC light-heavyweight belt
Where: The Forum, tickets available at the box office and axs.com
When: Saturday, pay-per-view portion begins at 7 p.m. PST, preliminaries on FS1 at 5 p.m.