The now-former bantamweight champion fell in stunning fashion to Julianna Pena in Saturday’s co-main event, which brought Nunes’ unprecedented 12-fight, seven-year undefeated streak to an end.
Despite that result, Nunes’ staggering reign atop the bantamweight division means she’ll ultimately get to decide if an immediate rematch is in her future.
“Yes,” UFC President Dana White answered at the post-fight press conference when asked if Nunes deserved another shot at Pena. “It’s a big rematch if she wants it.”
While Nunes came out with a strong start against Pena, she struggled to maintain her pace in the second round after the Ultimate Fighter 18 winner really started to touch her on the chin with a series of punches.
Nunes eventually wilted under the pressure from Pena’s relentless offense, leading to the fight-finishing sequence that saw Pena secure a rear-naked choke submission in the second round.
When the night started, Pena was one of the biggest underdogs in the history of UFC title fights and she shocked Nunes and the rest of the world with her performance.
“It’s up there with [Matt] Serra and [Georges St-Pierre],” White said about the magnitude of this upset. “Julianna is a person who always believed in herself and believed that she could win this fight if she got it. You heard it at the press conference, you heard it in the months leading up to this fight — and she did it. She did it tonight. That’s one of the things that makes this sport so incredible.
“When somebody’s that big of an underdog — I mean how many times have we been at these events where, when the fights are over, everybody’s looking at each other like ‘holy sh*t.’ It happens all the time here. It’s literally what makes this sport so incredible.”
It could be argued that Nunes’ greatest enemy heading into Saturday night was her own complacency after she essentially ran roughshod over two divisions while serving as both the 135 and 145-pound champion.
To add to that, Nunes has seen her life dramatically change in recent years, not only with the addition of her daughter with wife and fellow UFC fighter Nina Nunes, but also through finding the kind of financial freedom that very few people enjoy at age 33.
“She’s been on top forever,” White said about Nunes. “Regardless of what you think, she’s made sh*t-loads of money. She has a lot of money. She has a baby now, a family. These things change you.”
Another opportunity that Nunes’ loss may have cost her other than more future bantamweight title defenses was a chance to add onto her legacy with another monumental fight, which White teased during the press conference.
Earlier in the night during the UFC 269 broadcast, two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time PFL champion Kayla Harrison was shown on screen, which immediately led to speculation that perhaps her free agency period had ended and she found a new fighting home.
White later confirmed talks were ongoing with Harrison to see if she would land on the UFC roster, although Nunes losing may have nixed some potentially monumental plans he had in mind.
“For a Kayla Harrison, the Amanda Nunes fight was huge,” White said. “If they would have faced off, it would have been a massive, mega-million dollar fight. ... Let me tell you, if Amanda Nunes had won tonight, the Kayla Harrison fight would have been one of the biggest fights that you would have ever seen.”
Of course, Nunes losing doesn’t mean Harrison won’t still sign with the UFC, but it almost certainly nixes any possibility of the matchup happening in the near future.