July 5, 2017

Amanda Nunes: UFC 213 Is Her Opportunity To Prove She's the Face of Women's MMA

By Raphael Garcia

Motivation is an interesting aspect of professional sports. Some athletes are driven by the idea of being the best, others chase after money, and some strive to achieve the recognition of their peers. UFC Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes finds herself in a peculiar place with regard to motivation; she’s the champion, but is consistently asked to prove herself. As the sport looks ahead to UFC 213 this weekend, Nunes is fighting to prove she’s the real deal.

It’s amazing that Amanda Nunes isn’t a more recognizable face. The Brazilian native spent 2016 dispatching two of the most important names in women’s mixed martial arts: Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey. Not only did she get those wins, but she did so by stopping them both in dramatic and violent fashion. The video clips of her smashing Tate’s nose at UFC 200 and bouncing Rousey off of the cage at UFC 207 are highlights that no other woman in the sport can boast about. Still, Nunes isn’t getting the recognition that she deserves, and that storyline has continued into this weekend’s PPV. 

Valentina Shevchenko heads into this fight riding a two-fight win streak. The last time she was defeated was by Nunes back at UFC 196 a little more than a year ago. Even with that defeat in such close proximity to the rematch, Shevchenko isn’t as much of an underdog as one would expect. According to MMA Oddsbreaker she’s a +120 underdog to Nunes as the -150 favorite. All throughout the lead up to this fight Nunes has reminded the MMA media and fans that she has a win over “Bullet” and that she’s the one coming off of wins over some of the biggest names to ever step into the Octagon.

“I’m the kind of fighter that has to keep proving myself. I win fights and show them I’m the best and one day they will see I’m the real champion. Maybe I’m going to paint my hair blonde and make myself beautiful…just kidding.”

Whether she’s joking or not, there’s still a hint of truth to this being how she feels about her status as a UFC champion. But sadly, being promoted at all represents a stark contrast to how she was treated heading into her first title defense this past December. The UFC didn’t talk about her much at all. Instead, the focus was on Rousey, and that motivated Nunes towards the violent stoppage the world witnessed at UFC 207. That situation seems to be repeating itself somewhat as she prepares to face Shevchenko on Saturday night.

When asked about the UFC’s promotion of her by MMA Fighting during the UFC 213 media day, Nunes replied:

“They promote good. They talk about me, and they talk about her. It is what it is; there’s nothing I can do...I’m going to step into the cage and get my work done.”

Coming on the heels of Felice Herrig's tearful assertion that she’s not “young and beautiful” enough to be promoted by the UFC, it’s interesting to observe the promotion’s continued struggle to develop Amanda Nunes into a star. She’s been a part of two main events, headlining two shows that have drawn more than one million buys. However, UFC 213 is a true litmus test of just how much of a draw Nunes has become. But draw or not, the UFC and its fans haven’t been treating her like a star, and that perceived oversight could provide Nunes with the extra motivation she needs to put another blond, beautiful opponent on her highlight reel.

UFC 213: Romero vs. Whittaker (formerly UFC 213: Nunes vs. Shevchenko) takes place July 8, 2017 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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