What stands out most about Amanda Nunes, and why she fought Cris Cyborg
Amanda Nunes made history last month by adding the world featherweight title to the bantamweight championship she already owned, with a stunning 51-second KO victory over living legend Cris Cyborg Justino. The American Top Team member’s head coach Marcus 'Conan' Silveira tells us that the plan for Nunes to move up in weight to win a second championship while simultaneously holding the 135lbs one was put into place some time ago.
"It definitely wasn’t something that we just decided to do, recently,” he says. "I’d say around the time Amanda won the 135lbs championship from Miesha Tate, we began discussing fighting for titles at two weights.”
It wasn’t Nunes’ size or a desire to not have to cut weight so hard, that led her and her team to decide to campaign at featherweight, according to the coach. Simply put, they wanted to build on her already impressive legacy.
"It wasn’t so much a matter of weight, or her frame, or weight cutting or not having to cut weight. It was more about a chance to make history and be remembered as an all-time great,” he explains.
The 30-year-old certainly deserves that designation for all she’s accomplished in the cage thus far. Nunes has also managed to stay reserved and controlled and away from trash-talk, even in the face of Justino’s pre-fight insults to her integrity and national and ethnic pride as a fellow Brazilian.
If Nunes was ever rattled by Justino calling her a traitor to her compatriots, she never showed it in public. Silveira maintains that it was always the plan for Nunes to wait to reply to her opponent once they were inside the ring together.
"I think Amanda kept everything respectful in response to Cyborg in advance of the fight. Whatever she said about Amanda and our team, before, it was all just talk,” he continued. "And, you have to respect Cyborg, what she’s done for MMA, women’s MMA, and who she is. If you let talk get you upset, you’re in the wrong business. At the end of the day, we knew, Amanda knew, that the fight was going to happen, and that she would get her say in the fight itself.”
Nunez certainly did express herself come fight night, thwarting a hard-charging Cyborg, dropping her repeatedly, and scoring the victory after an intense firefight. Silveira says that Nunes was prepared for an aggressive Justino, and made on-the-fly adjustments to secure the win.
"We thought that ‘Cyborg’ would be herself, that she would be aggressive. I expected that she would show Amanda no respect in the cage, that is, that Cyborg would just try to run Amanda over,” he continues. "These days, preparing for an MMA fight, creating strategies and gamelans is a science, and we prepare in detail. I wouldn’t say it was the gameplay to just go in there and swing and trade punches with Cyborg, but Amanda is fantastic at making adjustments when there are opportunities, and she trusts her instincts.
"If someone gives you openings with what they’re doing, why not take advantage of them?”
After having already quickly and decisively beaten some of the most accomplished fighters in the sport’s history, Nunes has proven herself to be a fighter of unique excellence. We ask her head coach what, among many characteristics, stand out the most about Nunes to him.
"What stands out to me about Amanda the most is her ability to keep her feet on the ground, even when she reaches new heights,” he shares. "Most people, when they have success, when they first fly high, they lose their footing, their focus. Amanda never changed. She kept her feet firmly on the ground, even after she won her first world championship, she never forgot who she was, where she came from, what got her to that point.”
Nunes has now won seven-straight fights and holds championships in two weight classes. The double champion should have plenty of options, now, but Silveira says it isn’t quite time yet to make decisions about the next move.
"I don’t know what’s next for her, yet,” he ends. "I want her to be able to enjoy herself and rest for a bit after this huge accomplishment. In a couple weeks, I’m sure we’ll all get together and talk and decide what good options are for her, and she’ll decide what she wants to do, next, but for now, I want her to just relax and enjoy herself for a while.
About the author:
Elias Cepeda writes a regular column for The UG Feed; you can find Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda.