Even though Nina Ansaroff shows she’s been on a respectable 4-fight winning streak, she actually feels like she has won five in a row.
“In my second (UFC) fight, it was really close,” Ansaroff said. “I thought I won it, so the fight after that, I was like, ‘You know what, it was my second fight at 115, so my body wasn’t really used to the wait cut.’ So I got a nutritionist, got better at the wait, and then from there, I was able to be myself more and things came together.”
That unanimous decision loss to Justine Kish at UFC 195 now feels eons ago as Ansaroff prepares for Tatiana Suarez in what looks to be a title eliminator fight. That title shot won’t come easy, though, as Suarez has proven worth the hype she received as a prospect and is heavily favored to win.
Ansaroff, however, isn’t at all annoyed or uncomfortable leaning into her underdog roll.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Ansaroff said. “I’ve been with (featherweight and bantamweight champion and fiancée) Amanda (Nunes) for seven years. I’ve seen her go through the exact same thing. It didn’t stop her to get her where she is right now. Everyone made her to be the underdog. No one ever believed in her, and look where she is, so I have no problem with people thinking they know me or thinking that I am unable to beat a wrestler.
Plenty of Suarez’s hype comes from her ability to dominate with her wrestling ability, which she began honing since before she was four years old, but Ansaroff blows off that notion and points to her own experience.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Ansaroff said. “I’ve been in this sport professionally for 10 years. I’ve been fighting since I was six. I think it’s going to be a closer fight than everyone thinks.”
While confidence brims through Ansaroff, so does a calmness when talking about her self-proclaimed “biggest fight” of her career. She says she always had the ability to lock in on a goal, whether that came while working in an office, going to school or fighting. She attributes it partly to growing up with all boys in the house – a younger and older brother, and her father.
“It was crazy in there,” she said. “So I had to bring the calm to that household.”
She’ll bring that ease with her into the Octagon to face the undefeated Suarez, even when Suarez attempts to get into her vaunted wrestling game. Although her last few opponents have carried a grappling-heavy approach, they’ve all done so differently. Despite Ansaroff’s preference to pick her opponents apart with her polished standup, she claims she is comfortable when the fight gets mucked up.
“Just because I don’t show much wrestling or grappling in my fights doesn’t mean I’m not capable of it,” she said. “I mean, I know how to wrestle. I do know how to do jiu jitsu. It is mixed martial arts. I just prefer to be a striker, so that’s where you see me try to keep most of my fights is on the fight.”
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Based on her performances and improvement over the course of her winning streak, it’s not out of the realm of thought that Ansaroff can pull off another upset. She’s – naturally – confident about her chances and abilities. If she gets her hand raised on June 8, it’ll be hard to ignore her earned shot at a title fight.
Talking to her, though, you can’t really tell how big the fight is. She’ll acknowledge it, sure, but it’s not getting to her in any obvious way. That shouldn’t be surprising, nor should it be if she gets the win in Chicago.
Zac Pacleb is a writer and producer for UFC.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ZacPacleb.