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Anthony Smith explains why he looks forward to Amanda Nunes’ retirement

Anthony Smith isn’t calling for Amanda Nunes to retire. Let’s be clear about that. He knows better than most what it’s like to have outsiders give an athlete unsolicited advice about their life or livelihood, especially ahead of a big fight.

Yet, as Nunes approaches her latest title defense this Saturday against Irene Aldana at UFC 289, Smith can’t help but think about the end.

“Is it weird that, at times, I look forward to Amanda Nunes’ retirement?” Smith asked Monday on The MMA Hour. “It’s a very weird sentiment I have. Sometimes when I see her in these fight weeks, in these interviews, and she’s dragged her whole family there, and then she gets in and she fights — sometimes I almost feel bad for her.

“Like, just go enjoy your life, and just go have fun. Like, stop doing all this s***. Because a lot of times she doesn’t seem to always enjoy it that much.”

It has been a long road for Nunes. The 35-year-old Brazilian has been a UFC champion ever since July 2016, when she captured the women’s bantamweight title with a first-round win over Miesha Tate. She added a second belt to her collection in December 2018 when she needed just 51 seconds to punch out Cris Cyborg for the UFC’s featherweight gold.

Since then, Nunes has been nigh unstoppable, racking up seven combined defenses of her titles and avenging her only championship loss with a five-round rout of Julianna Pena in July 2022. At this stage, “The Lioness” is easily the most decorated female fighter in UFC history, and has cemented her place as one of the greatest MMA fighters of all-time.

That’s a long way from who Nunes was when she and Smith first crossed paths in 2008. Back then, the surefire Hall of Famer was just an anonymous prospect struggling to make her way, cornering her future wife Nina Nunes at a regional show in St. Joseph, Missouri.

“It was just, it’s wild to look back on, like, she was fighting back then,” Smith said. “She’s been around so long, her and Nina. It was crazy.”

“I don’t know, I just feel like she’s in a position where she can just, there’s so much — she has a whole lifetime ahead of her,” Smith continued. “And she’s done so much and, again, like, what else does she have to prove? At all? I just almost look forward to her to be able to just go off and just do something else great. I know that sounds weird, [but] I mean that in a really positive way. I mean that in a really positive way.

“I just want her to be happy.”

The question of motivation is one that has followed Nunes for the majority of the past few years as her résumé became undeniable. That talk only intensified after she split with her longtime team, American Top Team, and instead began managing her own training camps following her December 2021 loss to Peña. UFC president Dana White recently offered similar public sentiments regarding Nunes ahead of her title bout at UFC 289.

Against Aldana, Nunes meets a hungry Mexican-born contender who’s riding a wave of success from her countrymen and countrywomen, with Brandon Moreno, Yair Rodriguez, and Alexa Grasso all having recently claimed UFC titles of some kind for Mexico. Grasso, in particular, is Aldana’s longtime training partner and earned her belt by scoring a massive upset over Valentina Shevchenko in a setup very similar to the one Aldana now faces.

“I’m not super confident in it, but I think if the best Amanda Nunes shows up, I think she gets the job done,” Smith said. “The problem is her motivation has been in question at times. She’s got this a little bit of a different training setup, where she’s kind of off on her own doing her own thing. We’ve seen that be really successful with some people, and really, really tragic in others. For example, myself, I wouldn’t be able to kind of run my own camp and do it separately away from kind of a team atmosphere. It’s just not how my mentality is.

“So I don’t know how that’s going to really work for her. But I think if the Amanda Nunes that fought Julianna Pena the second time shows up, I think that she can be really, really successful and dangerous.

“But Aldana’s also got a teammate who just kind of did the unimaginable, which, Teddy Atlas said that when you become champion, you get 30 percent better. And I think that the same can be said for the people around you that are doing the same thing,” Smith continued.

“I think once you see someone accomplish something that maybe you said it out loud, like, ‘Oh yeah, she can definitely beat Valentina Shevchenko.’ Maybe you said that to be a great teammate, but once you see it happen and you see the effects of it, and you see everything that she’s got from it, I think that motivation is probably second to none. Because now you’ve seen it. Like, you’ve seen it happen, you’ve seen what’s possible.”

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