Earlier this year, Nunes left her longtime gym American Top Team to open her own place. While the split was amicable, Nunes recently said her loss to Julianna Peña at UFC 269 was because she was still recovering from COVID-19, and that American Top Team head coach Conan Silveira should have stopped her from competing that night.
An undefeated ATT fighter, Josh Silveira believes Nunes is misappropriating blame.
“I think growing up and watching fighters as they go through their careers, I think they all have a certain superstition, or something they need to do perfectly to have success, so maybe she went through some stuff and felt like she had to make some changes,” Silveira told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “I felt like she said what she said, because I think that was just something she had to say. But I know for a fact that my dad has helped her through her prime. My dad and her conquered some things, and nobody can take that from him.”
Nunes joined American Top Team in 2015, and under the tutelage of Conan Silveira and Mike Brown, she rose to become a two-division UFC champion and is widely regarded as the greatest female fighter of all time. In her first fight since the split from ATT, Nunes reclaimed the bantamweight title she lost to Peña, winning a dominant unanimous decision over Peña in their rematch at UFC 277.
In pre- and post-fight interviews, “The Lionness” seem happy with her change in gym. She said she was running at a deficit before the first fight with Peña at UFC 269.
“Right after I turned the first one down because I had COVID I was still coughing DC during the next camp,” Nunes told Daniel Cormier recently. “I was keeping my lungs, trying to see how far I can go and cough at the same time, and it was a huge mistake. I still don’t know why I wanted to fight so badly, but I was even able to convince my coach... Honestly, I don’t want to put my loss on my coach. I take all the responsibility for that, but Conan, he was my head coach for so long. He was somebody that would be able to stop me from that...
“He would be the only person, Conan. I told him that. ‘As much as we’re so close, we have this very good friendship, I’m never going to tell you I feel like s*** today so I can’t.’ And as my head coach, if you can, you go. But I told him, ‘I don’t want to put this in your bag, but I really needed you in that moment. And I was by myself.’”
As the son of the ATT head coach and an undefeated prospect in his own right, the young Silveira was at the gym for Nunes’ run with ATT. He said Nunes’ argument doesn’t make any sense, because his father already helped her once before in a similar situation, when Nunes pulled out of a fight with Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 213, the morning of the fight.
“But if she felt like she had to because my dad, what was it, had to pull her out the fight? It was the coaches fault?” said Silveira. “I think one thing that a good coach will do, he’ll listen to the fighters. So I’m sure that if she said I don’t want to fight, he would be OK with it.
“The first time she pulled out of a fight against Valentina, my dad said don’t do it. My dad was like, ‘Don’t do it. You’re the champion. Don’t do it if you don’t feel good. Don’t take the fight.’ My dad’s already helped her with that. My dad has issues sometimes with promoters because it’s like, ‘Hey, if they give you a problem, tell them to call me.’ Because we want to go to battle — it’s a water of unknown. The least we can do is be ready for it.”
“I think when that came out, I don’t really care because it’s not my career, but it’s my dad so I do have a little taste in my mouth about it. He’s a great coach. He will never push a guy to go do something they don’t feel comfortable about. Especially a championship fight. The ball is in your side of the court. There could have been some issues but I’m sure they could have found a different [co]main event.”
Nunes split from ATT was not strictly about the Peña fight, though. Earlier this “The Lioness” acknowledged that the arrival of Kayla Harrison to the gym, and the frequent public statements about a potential fight between the two of them, left her feeling uncomfortable at American Top Team.
All in all, it was an unfortunate end to a long and productive relationship. But Silveira said his father is putting it behind him and moving forward.
“I don’t think he’s hurt, because the guy’s unbreakable,” Josh Silveira said. “He’s been through a lot more. When you’re dealing with fighters, pros — not just fighters, but pros. This is different from the collegiate athletes where there are scholarships hung over our head and we can get kicked off. These are pros, man. If you want to do nothing and get ready for the fight, a coach accepts that. They can’t do anything about that. You make your decisions. So I think he’s upset — not so much upset, he’s moving on.”
Conan Silveira has plenty of other things to focus on now, anyway, when Josh faces American Top Team teammate Omari Akhmedov on Friday in the PFL light heavyweight playoffs at PFL Playoffs 1: Pettis vs. Ray 2.