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Ketlen Vieira wants to become ‘female version of Jose Aldo’ with UFC title win over Amanda Nunes

UFC Fight Night: Holm v Vieira
Ketlen Vieira won a decision over Holly Holm in her most recent UFC fight.
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Days before her second UFC fight in 2017, Ketlen Vieira told MMA Fighting she dreamed of becoming the “female version of Jose Aldo”. Five years later, Vieira is close to securing a shot at UFC gold and feels she’s about to turn that dream into reality.

With Amanda Nunes back at the top of the bantamweight division after a dominant victory over Julianna Peña at UFC 277 this past Saturday, Vieira told MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca that she believes she should be next in line. A win over “The Lioness,” Vieira said, would cement her own place in the history of the sport, just like her teammate Aldo did.

“[Nunes] made history and won against the best, a champion in two divisions,” Vieira said. “So, for sure, if I can win a title fight against Amanda Nunes, I’ll be turning a dream into reality and becoming the female version of Jose Aldo. My dream is to become champion, no matter how. I wanna be the female version of Jose Aldo and become the first Amazonas-born UFC champion.”

Nunes holds belts in the 135-pound and 145-pound divisions in the UFC, and it’s not yet clear what’s next for her after beating Peña. A trilogy bout with flyweight queen Valentina Shevchenko is one of the possible options, but Vieira thinks “Bullet” shouldn’t receive the chance because “she lost to Taila Santos” at UFC 275, Vieira said, and “Amanda beat [Shevchenko] two times already, so it doesn’t make sense.”

Vieira is coming off back-to-back decision wins over Holly Holm and Miesha Tate. She also holds victories over the likes of Cat Zingano and Sara McMann, both of whom once challenged Ronda Rousey for the bantamweight throne.

“I never wanted to fight Brazilians, because there aren’t many of us in the UFC, especially in the bantamweight division. Only if it was for the belt,” Vieira said. “But there’s no other way, my dream and goal will always speak louder than that. I want to make it clear that I don’t want to fight Amanda, I want to fight for the belt, and currently she’s the champion. I’m not asking for anything absurd here, I’ve earned it. I won against two former champions. The only women to do that was Amanda Nunes, so I truly believe I’m next.”

Vieira said that Nunes’ performance in the Peña rematch went just as expected and showed “the Amanda of old, with hunger to be champion.” She didn’t, however, agree with Nunes’ comments about wanting to go five rounds to prove a point instead of finishing Peña earlier.

“When we’re in there, and I speak for myself here, I want to end it as soon as possible,” Vieira said. “If you don’t do it, you can get [finished]. I think every athlete goes there wanting that, but there’s another athlete in there just as prepared as we are, and sometimes it goes to a decision. In my opinion, I saw that [Nunes] was afraid of getting tired, or didn’t want to take risks. That’s what I think, but only she knows.”

The Nova União talent wants to face Nunes in Brazil in 2023 and believes she has the perfect style to dethrone “The Lioness” when it finally happens.

“‘Dede’ [Pederneiras] always said I have a great game to put on a good fight with Amanda,” she said. “I’m big, just like her. [Nunes] was twice as big as Julianna Peña, who didn’t have physical strength to grapple with her. She was also lost when Nunes switched stances. She didn’t expect that. We can’t be surprised in a fight, we have to be prepared for everything.

“[Peña] said in her interviews before the fight she was ready for everything, but got so frustrated with Amanda switching stances, she couldn’t even attack. Every time she attacked — and did it recklessly because she wasn’t used to a southpaw stance — Amanda just took a step back and threw the hand, knocking her down every single time. My team and I have been thinking about it for a long time.

“Since Amanda is the champion for so long, we’ve always studied her game. I believe I’m in a great moment in my career, as a person and athlete. I’m more mature now.”

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