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Coach: Amanda Nunes’ cardio will be ‘even better’ at featherweight

Amanda Nunes looks to become the featherweight champion with a win over Cris Cyborg at UFC 232.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Amanda Nunes will compete as a featherweight for the first time since 2011 when she attempts to become the first women to win belts in multiple weight classes in the UFC. To achieve that, she’s had to change a few aspects of her training routine.

The UFC bantamweight queen is slated to face 145-pound champion Cris Cyborg at UFC 232 in Las Vegas, NV, on Dec. 29 — and Everton Bittar Oliveira, one of American Top Team’s strength and conditioning coaches, says Nunes’ physical preparation will be “completely different” this time around compared to her 10 previous UFC bouts.

Nunes currently weighs 165 pounds less than four months ahead of the superfight, heavier than she usually walks around before a training camp for a bantamweight fight, but Team Nunes’ goal is not to get her as big as possible for a clash with Cyborg. Nunes has to make weight at 145 pounds a day before the event this time, whereas she usually weighs around 145-150 pounds on fight night for bantamweight.

“It’s not our idea to have her move up all the way up to 170, for example, but to gain strength and power to handle the fight rhythm at featherweight,” Oliveira told MMA Fighting. “How much she weighs is not the primarily factor, but how her body is — more muscle mass and less body fat percentage.”

Nunes has yet to kick off her training camp for UFC 232 since she had to heal from a foot injury she sustained at UFC 224, Oliveira said, so agreeing to a fight in September or October, like Cyborg suggested, was impossible.

“My main goal with Amanda is to control her weight gain and develop a training base to make sure she gets to featherweight as strong as she is at bantamweight,” Oliveira said. “There’s no doubt that Amanda is the strongest fighter at 135, no one hits harder than her, no one has more power than her, but that’s a combination of several factors. At featherweight, it’s 10 pounds more. We will get her ready for five rounds at a high pace. My main goal is to plan her training to make sure she peaks in December.”

“The Lioness” has finished her opponents in seven of her nine UFC wins, including Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Germaine de Randamie and most recently Raquel Pennington, and Oliveira is working to keep that power when she moves up in weight.

Her power has always made a difference in her fights, but Nunes has been questioned a few times in the past because of her cardio. With Nunes coming off a fifth-round TKO over Pennington and a decision win over Valentina Shevchenko after 25 minutes of fighting, her conditioning coach expects her to perform even better as a featherweight.

“It will probably be even better because she doesn’t have to suffer cutting weight,” Oliveira said. “Weight cutting can hurt an athlete’s performance the next day. Some athletes deal with it better than others. Amanda has evolved drastically in both technical and physical terms, so I don’t see any problems with her fighting five rounds at 145. She proved in Rio de Janeiro that she can fight at a higher pace for five rounds and finish her opponent in the end.”

The ATT coach is confident in the victory, and believes Nunes will be crowned the greatest female fighter of all-time with a win over Cyborg.

“She will become a two-division champion,” Oliveira said. “She has been dominating at 135, retired two of the biggest stars at 135, beat Valentina (Shevchenko) twice, so she undoubtedly is the greatest bantamweight in history. Cris is the best featherweight in history, so beating Cris automatically puts Amanda’s name as the greatest of all-time.”

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