Amanda “Lioness” Nunes, the first openly gay champion in UFC history, headlines the UFC’s final event of 2016 vs. the world’s most famous MMA star, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey.
Amanda Nunes dominated Ronda Rousey and won with a knockout in 48 seconds of Round 1. “I’m the champion here, Amanda Nunes, the lioness!” she said after.
Original article: Amanda Nunes made history on July 9th when she became the first openly gay champion in the UFC’s short but dynamic history. That night, in the main event of UFC 200 she pasted women’s MMA pioneer Miesha Tate en route to a dominant submission victory inside the first round.
On Friday at UFC 207, the “Lioness” defends her UFC’s women’s bantamweight (135 pounds) belt for the first time. Looking to stop her is the most famous and popular athlete the sport has ever known, Ronda Rousey — the former champion who is returning after more than a year out on the sidelines.
Nunes grew up in the Brazilian state of Bahia, before she moved to Florida in pursuit of her mixed martial arts dream. After competing in the Strikeforce and Invicta organizations between 2011 and 2013 she was signed by the Ultimate Fighting Championships to take on Sheila Gaff at UFC 163.
Nunes won her debut, and her next fight versus Germaine de Randamie, before taking a tough loss to perennial top contender Cat Zingano in 2014. After that beating Nunes regrouped and then went on a tear, winning three fights in a row (versus Shayna Baszler, Sara McMann, and Valentina Shevchenko) to earn her shot at Tate.
In that fight Nunes outmuscled Tate and landed heavy punches that dazed the then-champion. With Tate backing up Nunes continued to land stiff punches, forcing Tate to crumple to the ground. Nunes followed the bloodied-Tate to the mat, peppering her with more strikes, before sinking in the fight ending submission (a rear naked choke).
Though she was the underdog in her championship fight against Tate, Nunes’ victory was not entirely shocking. Nunes’ aggressive style and powerful punching had been feared throughout the UFC’s women’s bantamweight division since she first walked into the Octagon. The biggest question mark that hung over here was whether she could keep this aggression in check and avoid making rash mistakes — such as she did versus Zingano.
At UFC 207, which is being held at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, lack of discipline could cost Nunes her championship. Rousey has made a career off of catching overzealous opponents in her clutches and forcing them to submit. If Nunes can avoid Rousey’s submissions, and land vicious strikes of her own, there is a very good chance Nunes does something no female bantamweight champion has done in the UFC since August 2015: defend the belt.
In November 2015, Rousey lost the belt to Holly Holm, who then proceeded to lose to Tate. Nunes’ dismantling of Tate in July was Tate’s first crack at defending the belt. On Friday night Nunes will be hoping to buck a trend, which is something she is very familiar with.
The 28-year-old Nunes is both the first Brazilian woman and openly gay individual to win a UFC championship. When she walks to the cage Friday, she’ll do so alongside the person who has been by her side since she first began competing in the UFC; her girlfriend — and training partner — Nina Ansaroff.
Nunes and Ansaroff met at Miami’s MMA Masters gym. According to a profile of Nunes, the two women’s relationship was adversarial at first. As a sparring partner Nunes was overaggressive, feeling Ansaroff was a trespasser in “her gym.”
After those early training experiences, Ansaroff began spending more time with Nunes. Ansaroff, a Florida native, began helping Nunes sharpen her English skills in addition to her fighting skills. Eventually a relationship bloomed. Four years later, both women now train at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla., (one of the world’s premier MMA gyms) and both compete in the UFC. Ansaroff fights in the women’s strawweight division (115 pounds).
Prior to Nunes’ winning the bantamweight championship Nunes and Ansaroff ‘s relationship did not garner much attention, nor did they seek it. However, since Nunes became the queen of the UFC’s most storied women’s division the pair have opened up on their lives together, a little bit.
At the UFC 200 post fight press conference Nunes professed her love for Ansaroff and said her girlfriend would be a UFC champion herself very soon. When she was asked how it felt to be the first openly gay UFC champion, the Brazilian responded simply, “It is amazing.”
“We’ve been together for four years. This is not something new,” Ansaroff told MMA Fighting, regarding her and Nunes’ relationship. “But because she’s a champion now, it’s new. Now it has to have a name. When you say ‘openly’, makes it seem like we’re strong. We were always strong together, and we never needed to make an announcement.”
The pair will need to be strong at UFC 207 when Nunes steps in opposite a women whom the UFC media-machine had once touted as the most dominant combat athlete on the planet. However, if Nunes performs as she and Ansaroff believes she’s capable, then she could be on her way to building a legacy as one of the greatest female fighters who has ever lived, LGBTQ or otherwise.