LOS ANGELES — Amanda Nunes and Nina Ansaroff have been dating for four years. Other than each other, they put training and fighting first. It wasn’t until recently that they both realized they are making an impact as LGBT women in the public eye.
When Nunes won the UFC women’s bantamweight title, beating Miesha Tate at UFC 200 in July, she became the first openly gay UFC champ. Nunes was open and honest about being who she was and loving Ansaroff. Their courage in discussing their lives seemed to resonate with people.
“It actually taught us something as well,” Ansaroff said at a UFC 207 media lunch last week. “We never thought of it as something that needed to be recognized other than we just post pictures together, because we’re together. But when we started both getting e-mails from people having difficulty and struggling with sexuality and stuff, it made us realize maybe we need to be a little bit stronger about this to help these people.”
For Nunes and Ansaroff, it was pretty simple and not something they put a label on. They trained together, became close friends and fell in love four years ago. Nunes and Ansaroff never officially came out publicly. They rarely talked about their sexual preference and were wary about putting up pictures of themselves on social media.
Things changed when Nunes submitted Tate to win the belt.
“That night at UFC 200, we were so happy,” Nunes said with a smile. “And then I kissed Nina.”
They weren’t hiding anything before, but now they’re much more public about being together. Not for themselves, but for other people, to show them that it’s OK to be who you really are.
“It’s an accountability thing, I believe,” Ansaroff said. “I’m not a representative of the LGBT community. I wouldn’t say that either one of us are like well-educated on it, to be honest with you. We never thought of it more than we just like each other. But it helped us realize that maybe we need to be. If it changes someone or helps somebody, I’m all for it.”
Nunes, 28, will defend her title for the first time in the main event of UFC 207 on Dec. 30 in Las Vegas against Ronda Rousey, the most well-known female fighter of all time. The stakes are high and all eyes will be on that fight, but Nunes is keeping calm wit Ansaroff by her side.
The couple’s witty banter has become a highlight of UFC videos, like Embedded. Nunes recently was honored with the Equality Visibility Award from Equality California, a prominent LGBTQ non-profit organization.
“There will always be people out there looking up to us,” Nunes said. “And both of us show we are happy. We love each other and it’s important for people to see that. Such respect. Love is love. When people realize how love is powerful, this world is gonna be a better place.”
After UFC 207, the two have plans for the future. Nunes and Ansaroff want kids and to eventually get married. Nunes said she longs for the day when she can take her children to DisneyWorld in Orlando, just a few hours from where they live and train in Coconut Creek, Fla., at American Top Team. Ansaroff will carry the child, they said.
“The other day she asked me, ‘Should I keep fighting or have a baby right away?’” Nunes said with a laugh. “I was like, ‘You have a fight coming up.’”
Indeed, Ansaroff faces Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger next month in Phoenix. A baby will have to wait for now.
Fighting remains the top priority at this moment. It’s their career, how they make their money. UFC 207 should be the biggest payday of Nunes’ life. It could go a long way toward their future.
On that path now, though, they do see a little more openness. Ansaroff said they get e-mails from young men and women, some who want to begin training in MMA and some who are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality. Nunes and Ansaroff will continue to embrace their visibility as role models.
“We’re strong enough with our situation, because both our families accept us,” Ansaroff said. “It’s never been an issue. But there are people that are struggling with it. And if this is what we need to do to help them, then we’ll help them.”