LOS ANGELES — Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko are not exactly known for pre-fight trash talk. Both come from traditional martial arts backgrounds — Nunes in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo, Shevchenko in taekwondo and Muay Thai — and are traditionally respectful to opponents before bouts.
That changed, though, last week. The two women, who will fight each other for Nunes’ women’s bantamweight title at UFC 213 on July 8 in Las Vegas, had heated verbal exchanges last Friday at the UFC Summer Kickoff press conference. And when the two met to face off, things got physical.
Nunes said she felt Shevchenko touch her face, so she put her fist on Shevchenko’s face and shoved it. Shevchenko fell backward a bit and the two were separated.
“You guys never see me do that before,” Nunes said Wednesday at a UFC 213 media lunch here in Century City. “If she didn’t touch me, nothing is gonna happen. Imagine in that situation, a lot of emotions involved, somebody touch your face. It’s not cool. I kind of responded in that moment. It was more than she did to me, but I reacted.
“You never know, especially how you feel in that moment and somebody talks so much sh*t about you and touches you, your face. At that angle, you guys couldn’t see it that well, but I felt it.”
The basis of the talk between Nunes and Shevchenko had to do with their last fight. Nunes beat Shevchenko by unanimous decision at UFC 196 in March 2016. Shevchenko, who was doing well toward the tail end of that fight, believes she has the advantage in a five-round bout, which the two will be competing in at UFC 213. Nunes obviously took umbrage.
“I beat her,” Nunes said. “She keeps talking about some things that doesn’t make any sense. The numbers don’t lie. If she looks at my record, she’s gonna see that she lost. Why does she keep saying over and over again the same thing? It doesn’t make any sense.”
After Nunes beat Shevchenko, she defeated Miesha Tate for the bantamweight title at UFC 200 last July. Nunes went on to knock out Ronda Rousey at UFC 207 back in December. It was a massive year for the Brazilian slugger. And it all started with a victory over Shevchenko.
“If I have to respond over and over again letting her know I beat her, I will do it,” Nunes said. “It’s not personal for me. I will get this done the day of the fight.”
Shevchenko rebounded from falling to Nunes by beating Holly Holm at UFC on FOX 20 last July and Julianna Pena by second-round submission back in January. “The Bullet” has earned the title shot rematch and it is an anticipated one. There is little argument that Nunes and Shevchenko are the best in the world at women’s 135 pounds at this moment.
While the fight is sure to be an intriguing one, the pre-fight trash talk — uncharacteristic as it may be — doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, either. Nunes knows Shevchenko will have a lot to say.
“I think all of my opponents say that, I gas out or whatever,” Nunes said. “They have to say something about me. I will do my job. I’m the champ for a reason.”