The two fighters that coach a season of The Ultimate Fighter usually have some level of animosity that create drama for the reality TV show. Amanda Nunes expected several heated interactions with the woman that dethroned her, UFC bantamweight champion Julianna Peña, when offered a coaching spot on TUF 30.
Instead, all the Brazilian heard was silence.
Speaking recently on MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca, Nunes admitted surprise with Peña’s change of stance compared to her social media posts and interviews, when she went on to call Nunes “high-maintenance”.
“Since Julianna was talking a lot, being the trash talker she is, I thought she would really bring that to TUF, but it didn’t go as I expected,” said Nunes, who will rematch Peña at UFC 277 on July 30 in Dallas.
“She was cool, completely different from who she really is. I don’t know if she was faking it because it would air on TV and she doesn’t want bad publicity. She’s too much, and everything’s full of Julianna already – imagine if she’s the way she [really] is on TUF. I think it wouldn’t be good for her, so I think she held back a little bit.”
“The Lioness” also believes that meeting with your former and future opponent on a daily basis — especially one that’s seen as one of the greatest fighters of all time — made Peña change her tone.
“I don’t know if she was used to seeing me all the time and that’s why she pumped the brakes on that stuff,” Nunes said. “I even told her, ‘Don’t you talk online? I’m in front of you now, open your mouth.’ But it was cool. [Normally] I don’t talk too much but I asked her, ‘What’s up?’ That’s what TUF is all about, it’s a reality [show] and people want drama.
“I even tried to poke her a little bit to see if I could get something out of her, but didn’t get much. … I didn’t understand much of it. I really expected something completely different than what she was on the show.”
Of all the things Peña has said in the past, Nunes does agree with her rival when she told The Schmo that Nunes is the champion “of a division of one person,” referring to the featherweight class and its lack of official rankings. That doesn’t mean, however, that Nunes isn’t planning on continuing to defend that title in the future, as well as the bantamweight belt, if she’s able to retake it at UFC 277.
“The division really is small and needs some work and investment,” Nunes said of the 145-pound class. “But these are the challenges presented to me. It was a challenge to face Cris [Cyborg] for the [featherweight] belt and I accepted and it worked, I became champion. Whether the division exists or not, I became champion of that division.
“The UFC will still put me to fight at that heavier weight class. There was a fight recently with Norma [Dumont and Macy Chiasson]. That girl [Chiasson] can be a future opponent. It’s still a division and it’s moving on regardless of [having only] one, two, three athletes. The important thing is that we’re having fights. I continue being the champion and will continue defending it.”
After flirting with retirement in the past and discussing a potential move to soccer, Nunes said that losing the 135-pound championship to Peña lit a fire inside her.
“That was my first belt and I really want it back,” Nunes said. “That loss motivated me a lot. Instead of demotivate me, it really injected fire in me and made me rethink a lot of things and make several changes in my life. I’ll continue on this vibe. I’ll dance to the music that plays and won’t let any [belt] go without an answer.
“My love for the sport speaks louder. I love everything that surrounds MMA. It’s always hard for someone to retire, especially in their prime. This rematch will be another great achievement. I’ll get this belt back, no doubt about it, and it will be historic. That’s what makes me so fascinated about this sport.”
No longer training at American Top Team and surrounded by a new group of coaches in Florida, Nunes turns 34 later this month and “still has a lot to offer to the sport.”
“For some reason I had to lose that night, and for the mistakes I made in my camp and during the fight,” Nunes said, “If I really was 100 percent and training well, that fight would definitely be mine and I would continue with my belt. But for my decisions and being stubborn sometimes, [I lost].
“Everybody goes through that. Sometimes we have to get beat until we learn it, and that’s what happened to me. I made a mistake that cost me the belt, and now we’ll battle to get it back.”