Amanda Nunes’ historic two-division UFC reign was ended by Julianna Peña this past December, and now “The Lioness” is hoping to regain her bantamweight title in the summer.
Speaking on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca, Nunes’ new jiu-jitsu coach Balbino Junior said the team is still awaiting official word from the UFC as to when the rematch will take place, but knows a ballpark date.
“We’re here [in Las Vegas] for two more weeks [shooting The Ultimate Fighter 30], and we don’t have a date set yet, but Amanda is getting the rhythm and we’re doing some training already,” Junior said. “Since we’re doing TUF and I think the [TUF 30] finals will be on the same day of the Julianna fight, I believe this fight it’s probably happening around July or August.”
Nunes won 12 straight fights in the UFC against a who’s who of women’s MMA, including former and current champions Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, Cris Cyborg, and Valentina Shevchenko. Junior believes that being in the blue corner once again as a challenger, at least at bantamweight, will give Nunes “extra incentive” and hunger to “bring the belt back.”
The Peña rematch will mark Nunes’ first bout since leaving American Top Team, a departure that came shortly after losing one of her UFC titles. Junior said there’s “no pressure whatsoever” over him and the new coaching staff — Kami Barzini and Roger Krahl — as well as Nunes herself, as they kick off a new phase in her career.
“She needs to be with people that believe in her 100 percent, that trust her, so she’s comfortable for a nice camp,” Junior said. “I’m very confident in the work we’re doing together and she’s very excited. Change is good sometimes.
“Our goal is to make Amanda bring this belt back. We know what Amanda is capable of. She’s a complete athlete.”
One of the advantages for Nunes of training at American Top Team in Florida, aside from the high-level group of coaches, was the long list of fighters that could adapt and serve as her sparring partners. Junior said they “don’t need more than two or three people to spar,” but will be surrounded by however many athletes they need to get Nunes ready to avenge her defeat. At UFC 269, when Nunes lost via second-round rear-naked choke, Junior believes the Brazilian star didn’t show “30 percent” of her real potential.
“I’m not here to find excuses for anything,” Junior said. “All credit goes to Julianna. But Amanda at her 100 percent, I believe this belt comes, and comes in tranquil fashion.
“I think [Nunes will win by] submission,” he added. “I see Amanda knocking Julianna down and maybe submitting her. But we’ll be ready for everything. Our goal is to bring the belt back no matter how. … We hope she really gets the payback with the submission. [Laughs.]”