Editor Note: This article was published prior to the UFC 279: Diaz vs Ferguson event change. Nate Diaz will now fight Tony Ferguson in the main event, Khamzat Chimaev will fight Kevin Holland in a catchweight (180) co-main event and Li Jingliang will fight Daniel Rodriguez in a catchweight (180) bout. | Order UFC 279: Diaz vs Ferguson
A lot has happened in the UFC women’s bantamweight division since Irene Aldana’s last trip to the Octagon.
While it was hard to be on the sidelines while Amanda Nunes and Julianna Peña split the results of two incredible fights, Aldana’s 14-month break from competition was a necessity.
Aldana was dealing with some injuries and felt that if she was going to make a true run at the bantamweight title, she would need to be 100 percent to beat the division’s elite. She learned that lesson when she traveled to Abu Dhabi in 2020 to fight Holly Holm with a serious foot injury. Aldana lost that bout and took time to heal before accepting her next challenge.
It paid off in a big way, as Aldana knocked out Yana Kunitskaya in the first round of their UFC 264 bout.
“I was coming back from a bad loss against Holly Holm and coming back and winning that way was great for me. I felt very good, I felt ready, I felt at home,” Aldana told UFC.com. “I was really enjoying every moment. With every fight I feel more comfortable and happier. I felt the joy of the public of the people. It fulfills me.”
Not a soul in T-Mobile Arena stayed seated when Aldana finished Kunitskaya. That moment has been on Aldana’s mind during her training camp for UFC 279, where she will face rising contender Macy Chiasson.
Not too long ago, Aldana, who sports the No. 4 ranking next to her name, was in a similar position as the 10th ranked Chiasson. That’s when Aldana had her breakout performance against Ketlen Vieira – which happened to also come in T-Mobile Arena at UFC 245.
“It’s interesting because I was also a No. 11 who fought a No. 2 in the rankings and I won and I knocked out a number 2,” Aldana recalled. “I know that can happen and [Chiasson] can do that. That’s why I’m so alert and aware of that. That helps me to give a better me.”
Aldana knows that eyes will be on this fight and that she can’t allow Chiasson to dictate where the fight takes place. She wants to showcase why she’s the higher ranked fighter and that she doesn’t underestimate any opponent.
“She’s just tough. She has great length and she’s a complete fighter. She’s a great wrestler and she’s a great challenge for me,” Aldana said. “Even though she’s No. 10 in the ranks I don’t see that as an advantage for me. She’s still just as tough as No. 1.”
A statement victory over Chiasson like her wins over Kunitskaya and Vieira would go a long way in helping Aldana cement her name in the title picture once the dust settles between Nunes and Peña.
“It’s interesting now what’s happened in the division, with what’s happened with Amanda and with Julianna in the first and second fight. I’m glad Amanda came back that way; it was the same Amanda as always, she was aggressive,” Aldana said. “I feel like we have a new challenge because she’s back. ‘The Lioness’ is back.”
That’s why UFC 279 is the golden opportunity that Aldana has been waiting for. She was in position to potentially face Nunes back when she had that main event with Holm. And it simply wasn’t her night.
This time, she won’t let the chance slip through her fingers.
“It’s extra motivation for me because I can see the path in there,” Aldana said. “I can see myself fighting for a title soon.”
UFC 279: Diaz vs Ferguson took place live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 10, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!