As Amanda Nunes took a seat in the corner of a hotel ballroom, she smiled as she looked at her UFC women’s bantamweight and featherweight championship belts resting on a table. She is the first woman to become a two-division UFC champion and there’s not much of an argument to be made against her being the greatest female MMA fighter ever.
Yet, the official UFC 245 fight poster displayed in the ballroom features welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington on top in the main event. Below them is UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski in the co-main event. And at the bottom is Nunes and Germaine de Randamie.
It’s just the fifth time the UFC has put on a card featuring three championship fights and the first since 2017. But it’s the first time Nunes, despite winning nine in a row, hasn’t been in the main event or co-main event since winning the bantamweight title in the main event of UFC 200 more than three years ago.
“Honestly, if I was the first fight of the night, I would defend my belt and I would be happy,” Nunes said. “That’s all that matters to me.”
Nunes’ resume is unmatched among female fighters. Not only did she defeat Ronda Rousey, Cris “Cyborg” Justino, Holly Holm and Miesha Tate —she beat them all within the first round. As good as de Randamie is after winning five consecutive fights and being undefeated since 2013, her last loss was to Nunes, who, beat her in the first round.
If Nunes, 31, were to retire now, her place in history and in the UFC Hall of Fame would be secure. At this point, she’s fighting to maintain her status.
“Everything I do in my life, I want to be the best,” Nunes said. “I grew up playing soccer and thinking I would be a soccer player but things change and I became an MMA fighter. I fell in love with this sport. The first thing I thought was I want to be the best at this and here I am. I’m the best and I want to stay there forever.”
Holloway would like to be recognized as the greatest featherweight in UFC history. He has 13 straight victories in the division, which is tied for the longest win streak within a division in UFC history. Holloway can break that tie on Saturday with a win over Volkanovski and separate himself from Jon Jones, Anderson Silva and Demetrious Johnson.
Holloway set his sights on being the best pound-for-pound fighter when he moved up to lightweight to face Dustin Poirer in April for the interim lightweight championship. He lost by unanimous decision for the first time since losing to Conor McGregor in 2013. Holloway’s pursuit of being a two-division champion and the greatest fighter in the UFC will continue next year if he wins on Saturday.
“It’s not even the belts that intrigue me,” Holloway said. “It’s being the best mixed martial artist in the world that intrigues me. Whoever you think is the best guy, let me fight him and if he has a belt, that’s just the cherry on top.”
The rivalry between Usman and Covington goes beyond the belt they will fight for. They have been waiting for this since Usman won the title from Tyron Woodley in March. Usman and Covington have exchanged words just about everywhere the past year. From Usman’s open workout before he won the title to various news conferences. They even got into it at a buffet line in Las Vegas. But Saturday will be the first time they have fought each other.
While each has accused the other of being fake, the animosity between them is very real. Saturday’s result likely will alter their careers.
“It’s very rare that you get a fight like this,” Usman said. “It’s very rare that you’re put in a position like this. There are a lot of fighters that fight all through their career and they never get put into that fight. They never find that right dance partner to propel them. … This is that fight for me. It’s very exciting. I welcome it, I’m excited for it and I can’t wait.”