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Amanda Nunes: ‘I was kind of cornered’ by ATT arrivals of Kayla Harrison, Yana Kunitskaya

The Ultimate Fighter: Team Pena v Team Nunes Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Following her shocking upset loss to Julianna Pena in Dec. 2021 (watch highlights), Amanda Nunes made some changes.

A longtime member of Florida’s American Top Team (ATT), it was revealed that “The Lioness” left the gym, leading most to believe her loss was the primary reason. However, a rift began to grow earlier when some new faces made their presences known, says the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight queenpin.

“There’s that saying, like it or lump it,” Nunes told MMA Fighting. “I was bothered by the whole situation, of course. There were no girls when I got to American Top Team. I was the first woman to bring two belts and put the women’s team in history. When Kayla [Harrison] got there and then [Yana] Kunitskaya, it began creating a weird situation for me because that was my territory.

“Other bantamweights were coming,” she continued. “Kunitskaya, who was already at the top and could’ve been a future opponent with a win over Ketlen [Vieira in 2021]. She got there right, when she was close to becoming the next opponent. She showed up in the gym and I had a scare when I walked in. I was like, ‘No, it’s not possible.’ It was creating this situation already. And then Kayla started talking. I was kind of like, ‘Man, I’m not safe even in my territory.’ I was kind of cornered, even because we share the same coaches. She trains with Mike Brown and I train with Mike Brown. I was already training with them when she got there.”

Harrison, a two-time Professional Fighter’s League (PFL) Lightweight champion, recently re-signed with the promotion after testing the waters of free agency in early 2022. Possibilities of joining Bellator and UFC were on the table for Harrison, but ultimately she stayed put in the cage she’s most known familiar with.

When it comes to fantasy booking, it’s no secret that fights for Harrison with either Nunes or Cris “Cyborg” Justino are the ones most desired. Despite their former affiliation as teammates, Harrison and Nunes were always open to fighting each other. Now, Nunes is still open to it, but the clash would have to take place inside the Octagon.

“If she’s going to sign [with the UFC] or not, that’s up to Kayla. I’ll be waiting,” Nunes said. “That would be the correct way, in my opinion, for her to talk about me, because I’m no longer there [at ATT]. That’s the correct way to say whatever she wants on the mic, to call me out or do whatever she wants, and I’ll be waiting for her there. When she signs [with UFC], I’ll be there to defend [my belt].

“Every challenge is welcome,” she continued. “If you fight and like to be at the top and test yourself at all times, you really want motivation to continue breaking records. After my departure [from ATT], it’s entirely on Kayla to signing with the UFC. I’ll be there waiting for anything. Of course, it will be way better now that we’re on different sides.”