The path to Amanda Lemos’ Las Vegas main event vs No. 3-ranked Marina Rodriguez was not an easy one. Of course, that’s metaphorically accurate in any retelling of the strawweight’s story, but this week it’s quite literally true.
Political demonstrations and protests in her native Brazil caused numerous flight delays and cancellations around the country, including that of Lemos. She ended up sleeping at the airport in hopes that her rescheduled flight would leave on time. Hours turned into days waiting for the 16-hour flight. Sitting in the fighter hotel with UFC.com on Thursday, she had been in Las Vegas less than half a day.
“I was a bit tired when I got here,” she admits. “But I was able to rest. I have trained already, and I am feeling brand new. Thanks to God, we arrived here well. I am feeling very well.”
It’s not an ideal start to arguably the biggest fight of your career to date. Just don’t expect to hear complaints or excuse-making from Lemos, who seems to have already forgotten the ordeal.
Relative to the challenges Lemos has faced in her life, an extended stay at the airport is mere child’s play. It’s a story that has been told before, but it warrants a reminder each time Lemos fights: she overcame a broken spine suffered in a motorcycle accident and now finds herself in striking distance of the UFC strawweight title.
“I went through a spine surgery--three surgeries actually--and it was tough. I spent two years away, but I never gave up.”
After winning Brazil’s Jungle Fight bantamweight championship in 2016, she worked as a motorcycle taxi to make ends meet when the accident occurred.
“The doctors told me I had to choose another profession and I told them they weren't God, that I would keep going. I am still here.”
“My coaches always told me I must have something different,” she says, commenting on her resilience. “I guess I was naturally strong already, but my coaches also used to push me a lot; they still push me. They saw this in me.”
Her numbers inside the Octagon bear out what her coaches saw. There’s a telling stat in the current UFC record book that would go a long way in describing Amanda Lemos’ fighting style to someone who hadn’t yet seen it: she owns the shortest average fight time among all current female fighters. At 6:51, that’s over two minutes shorter than the next closest strawweight, and eclipses other early finishers like Zhang Weili, Mackenzie Dern and Tatiana Suarez. In short, she has the power to end things early, and she often does.
Miranda Granger, Livinha Souza and Montserrat Conejo all met defeat in the first round. Michelle Waterson lasted until the second round. And the fighters that lasted the full 15 minutes with Lemos probably left wishing they hadn't. Outside of a wild and rare loss to Jessica Andrade last April, Lemos has appeared unstoppable since returning to the UFC in 2019.
That sets up her main event meeting with Rodriguez this Saturday to be amongst the most perfectly combustible strawweight bouts in recent memory. The penchant both fighters have for elite striking and unbridled ferocity equals some of the best matchmaking the division could offer in 2022.
“We are both strikers but I have been improving a lot in grappling, in wrestling, jiu-jitsu. We have changed a few things and we have watched Marina's fights, noticed Marina's flaws, which we will try to take advantage of,” she says, noting that the key to a good night against Rodriguez is “not letting her do her thing.”
Thought by many to be next in line for a title shot, her fellow Brazilian poses one of the most difficult challenges Lemos has faced thus far in her UFC tenure. But in that challenge is the opportunity to steal her spot in the championship line.
“I am happy with the opportunities that I've been getting. And this is what I train for: to fight the best, to give my best. And it makes me happy to know that I have been showing that. People are enjoying and they are giving me the tough fights, which is what I want.”
Rise Of Amanda Lemos
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Rise Of Amanda Lemos
And with every successive high-level fight, with every main event, with every step close to the ultimate prize, Lemos is humbled by the influence her story has on the new fans who hear it.
“I get a lot of messages saying that I inspire a lot of people, and this is amazing to me. I get messages from children, and I am so grateful for that. I am here for my daughter, for my family and I hope I can still motivate people not to give up on their dreams. Even if they go through hard times, keep going and you will get there.”
UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs Lemos took place live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 5, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!