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Holly Holm laughs off Julianna Pena’s claim that Amanda Nunes retired to avoid trilogy: ‘Nunes is not scared of Pena’

UFC Fight Night Holm v Aldana Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

As much as Holly Holm wishes she could get one back on Amanda Nunes, the former UFC bantamweight champion has nothing but praise for her former rival’s recent retirement.

Just after defeating Irene Aldana at UFC 289, Nunes called it a career and laid down her two title belts at 135 and 145 pounds. Considering Nunes has wins over every woman to ever touch gold at bantamweight or featherweight in UFC history, it’s hard to argue with her status as the greatest of all-time.

Holm, who suffered a loss to Nunes in a title fight back in 2019, admits it stung a little bit to know she’ll likely never get that rematch. But that doesn’t discount her admiration for the Brazilian.

“I have all the respect for Nunes,” Holm told MMA Fighting. “She’s fought all the top fighters. She didn’t dodge anybody. I want to be the one to beat her, I do but that’s just out of good sport. I have a lot of respect for her. She’s a dominant champion ,and a dominant champion that took on every challenge. She fought all the top girls. She held onto her belts so I congratulate her on everything and her retirement. I hope she’s enjoying herself.

“For me, I know it makes waves, it changes things up in our division but I am the type of fighter that I wanted to get the belt from Amanda. That’s more of a sweet victory. She’s hard to beat, but she’s still beatable. But I wish her well. My goal is to get the belt and the invitation if Nunes ever wants to come back [is there]. Because I know she said it’s a fake belt now. I’m always open to fight her.”

Following the announcement of her retirement, ex-UFC champion Julianna Pena went nuclear, slamming Nunes for allegedly dodging a third fight against her after they split their two previous encounters. Pena was originally scheduled to face Nunes in June, but she dropped out of the fight due to an injury.

In their first fight, Pena pulled off a massive upset to become UFC champion, but Nunes got her revenge with a one-sided decision win in the rematch seven months later. After Nunes’ retired, Pena accused her of being scared of the trilogy, proclaiming herself as the greatest women’s fighter in MMA history.

Reacting to those comments, Holm laughed at the suggestion that Nunes walked away from her career simply to avoid Pena.

“Nunes didn’t retire because she’s scared of Pena,” Holm said. “We all know that! But Pena beat Nunes fair and square. Who knows what was going on. Every fighter has an off night. I’m not trying to take away from Pena at all. She went in and she won that night, so I take nothing away from that, but Nunes is not scared of Pena.”

Holm has her own history with Pena. They were scheduled to meet back in 2021, but the fight was ultimately cancelled after the former boxing champion turned UFC contender was forced into surgery to deal with a condition called hydronephrosis. After her recovery, Holm expressed interest in rebooking the fight, but Pena ended up getting the title shot instead.

“She and I almost have unfinished business as well,” Holm said of Pena. “She’s been in and out, and she’ll always be a threat. She’s that dog, she’s going to fight. She’s got the fight in her so she’ll always be a threat. She’s just doing her thing for herself, promoting herself as well.”

Of course, Raquel Pennington is another name in the mix with a five-fight winning streak. But it can’t be forgotten that she also has a pair of previous losses to Holm.

Holm was offered a short-notice fight against Pennington back in May, but the matchup didn’t ultimately come together due to timing. Regardless, she isn’t counting on those wins over Pena to guarantee her a title shot, which is why she’s staying hyper focused for her upcoming fight against Mayra Bueno Silva on Saturday.

“Just because I’ve beat Pennington twice doesn’t mean this is a shoe in,” Holm said. “I think I can do better, because that’s just how I am. I think I can even perform better than my last two fights when I fought Pennington but Pennington is still ranked near the top for a reason because she’s resilient and she keeps learning and she’s getting better and things like that as well. There’s a lot of variables.”

Because she’s a former champion who has remained near the top of the rankings for the better part of the past eight years, Holm knows she’s never far away from title contention. Bu her only goal is beating Silva impressively to prove she should be in the conversation for the vacant title.

“My mind was on this title shot regardless,” Holm said. “I still wanted the title when Amanda had it. I still want it now. My job is to win this fight, and be on a win streak, and keep moving forward. Victory, victory, victory, that’s all I want.”

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