The UFC president spoke to the media following Saturday’s UFC 277 event at American Airlines Center in Dallas, and while he showered Nunes with praise for an impressive unanimous decision win over rival Julianna Peña, he also pointed out that he felt Nunes may have held back just a little with a December 2021 loss to Peña possibly still on her mind.
“I think two things: Julianna’s tough as nails and her will to win was second to none,” White said. “She wanted to win. I think as dominant as Amanda was — and she was dominant tonight, I didn’t think it was close any way, shape, or form, it was a complete shutout — but she still looked a little gun-shy to me. Going in against the person who beat you the first time, I could see that happening.
“I mean, it’s stupid for me to even say that. It was an absolutely dominant performance.”
In the first meeting between Peña and Nunes at UFC 269, Peña pulled off one of the biggest upsets of all-time by pushing the pace to a point that Nunes couldn’t match and finishing her with a rear-naked choke in the second round. This time, Nunes was the clear leader in terms of damage and she fought off Peña’s pesky submission attempts to win a lopsided judges’ decision and regain the UFC bantamweight title.
White agreed that Nunes may have deliberately employed a more cautions approach in the rematch.
“I think she was concerned about her cardio probably, because when you think about the way that she fought [Cris] Cyborg, she usually throws tons of punches,” White said. “She had Julianna hurt many times, had her on crazy legs a couple of times, and never really went in for the kill.”
White ultimately had good things to say about both fighters, but stopped short of calling the fight close just because Peña relentlessly attacked with submissions.
“She could have, but she didn’t,” White said of Peña possibly submitting Nunes. “There’s a big difference between submission attempts and knockdowns. It’s not even comparable.”
In her post-fight interview, Nunes said she was looking to take some time off as opposed to jumping into a third fight with Peña or going back up to 145 pounds to defend her other belt. She added that she expected to take time off, which White said she “absolutely” has earned.
When she returns, it might not be Peña that she meets in a trilogy bout, but rather UFC flyweight champion — and current No. 1 in MMA Fighting’s Pound-for-Pound Rankings — Valentina Shevchenko. Nunes hold two wins over Shevchenko, but their second fight went to a razor-thin decision and they have been so successful since fighting one another that a third clash has seemed inevitable at times.
“That’s not a bad idea,” White said when Shevchenko’s name was brought up. “Normally I would say, ‘Come on, man,’ but that’s not a bad idea really when you think about it. I’m not saying, ‘yes;’ I’m just saying it’s not a bad idea.”