"A warrior does not talk. A warrior acts." That was the motto that kept Amanda Nunes waiting patiently for her shot at the women's bantamweight title.
A constant presence at the division's Top 5 and coming from two strong victories, "The Lioness" had been campaigning for a shot at the belt, but did not surrender to the "trash-talking" way of life that seems to be a trend right now. With patience and a little bit of luck – given the changes that have taken place within the weight class the past few months – the Brazilian was finally given the contender tag and is ready to fight Miesha Tate at UFC 200 card on July 9th.
"I knew that life would help me in some way," Nunes said in an exclusive interview with UFC.com Brazil. "Then Ronda and Holly were defeated. It was a matter of patience. I kept quiet because I knew that it would happen sooner or later. I've always been in the Top 5. Some people need to wait, but there it is. I'm going to be the champion."
And, to be the champ, Nunes knows she needs to tweak a few things here and there. In her last fight – a unanimous decision victory over Valentina Shevchenko – the Brazilian was heavily criticized for slowing the pace through the rounds. Some saw the performance drop as exhaustion, since Nunes often doesn't even get to the second round of her matches.
Nunes, however, ensures that the problem is not quite related to her conditioning, but rather to extremely dry air of Las Vegas, where the title battle takes place. To work around this, the "Lioness" intends to pack up and leave for the MMA Mecca in advance.
"The air in Las Vegas is trouble for me. I get there and my nose starts bleeding. I'm getting there about a month earlier so it doesn't affect me in my fight. I'm traveling a few days before so I can adapt. There was no reason for me to get tired in that third round. I'm a disciplined fighter, I like to train, and I go for more than five rounds at the gym. Now I need to fix this. That's why we go back to the gym: to fix our mistakes."
Check out the full interview with Amanda Nunes:
You've been asking for the title-shot for some time. With all the twists in the weight-class - Miesha defeating Holly Holm and a possible return of Ronda Rousey – were you afraid of being "passed over"?
“I was coming from two wins over good athletes and still no title-shot, but I knew that life would help me in some way. Then Ronda and Holly were defeated. It was a matter of patience. I kept quiet because I knew that it would happen sooner or later. I've always been in the Top 5. Some people need to wait, but there it is. I'm going to be the champion.
“My master always told me: ‘A warrior does not talk. A warrior acts.’ I take it for life. I wanted to show my potential, I want to be the world's best, a complete athlete. I knew that at some point they would give me a title shot. Miesha even helped me, saying that she would fight with me and that she thought I could be next challenger.”
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How do you analyze Miesha Tate as a fighter?
“Miesha is able to absorb a lot of blows. She really takes a lot, and always goes back in the fight. This is her differentia: she assimilates the blows really well. In my view, that's her only strong feature.”
In your last fight, you were criticized for getting tired by the end, but you already said you have some difficulties with the dry air of Las Vegas. Was that the issue? Do you intend to do something about it?
“The air in Las Vegas is trouble for me. I get there and my nose starts bleeding. I have to walk around with a bottle of water all the time and hydrate a lot. My nutritionist said that I need to drink two gallons of water per day there. I live in Florida, and here the weather is very humid, so when I arrive in Vegas it's a big shock … In the first training I did in Las Vegas I almost died! I had to ask for permission to go out and take some air.
“I'm getting there about a month earlier so it doesn't affect me in my fight. I'm traveling a few days before so I can adapt. There was no reason for me to get tired in that third round. I'm a disciplined fighter, I like to train, and I go for more than five rounds at the gym. Now I need to fix this. That's why we go back to the gym: to fix our mistakes.”
You felt it for the first time in the fight against Cat Zingano. Were you surprised that it happened again in the fight against Shevchenko?
“I even said to my coach that my throat was dry. In my head, I thought: ‘It happened again! Dammit!’ In the fight against Cat I could not deal with it because it was the first time it happened to me, I did not know what to do. You get desperate. In the second time, I thought: ‘Okay, I've been here before, I'll survive.’ It was what I did in the last fight. Now it will not happen again. I'll train that air, I'll get used to it. Some people have no issues, but it affects me.”
Miesha is an excellent wrestler, who is always looking for the takedowns, and you are known for knockout power. How do your fighting styles combine?
“I come from a grappling background, but learned striking very quickly. I ended up missing out on the ground because I exploded on striking, but when it got to the ground, I was tired and could not develop my game. I am a black belt in jiu-jitsu and been training in grappling for my whole life, but was unable to show it because I kept burning my gas early in the fights. Now is a different stage of my life. I learned to focus my conditioning, and now I know what I can do and what's the right time to do it. I submitted McMann, who is a grappler that won the silver medal in the Olympics as a wrestler.”
How do you see the fight going?
“I'm going up there and I'll fight for that belt, which is what I wanted most. Underdog or not, that day will be mine. What matters is that belt around my waist. It could be any card, anywhere – what I most want is the belt.”
Jessica Portasio is a digital journalist for UFC.com.br. You can follow her on Twitter @Jeportasio