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UFC 289’s Amanda Nunes couldn’t retire and ‘leave my belt with Julianna Pena’ after loss: ‘She’s not that good’

UFC 277: Pena v Nunes 2 Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

Amanda Nunes may have been closer to retiring than many realized following her loss to Julianna Pena in Dec. 2021.

The mixed martial arts (MMA) world was flipped upside-down at UFC 269 to close out the 2021 calendar year. After a rough first round beating from the dual-division champion, Pena rallied in the second to finish “The Lionness” with a rear-naked choke (watch highlights), becoming the first new women’s Bantamweight titleholder since Miesha Tate in July 2016.

Unfortunately for Pena, the pair’s rematch played out a lot differently in Aug. 2022. Nunes battered “Venezuelan Vixen” throughout five rounds, earning a unanimous decision win and reclaiming her 135-pound title (watch highlights). The all-time great admits that had that loss come against anyone else, that very well may have been it for her inside the Octagon.

“I decided not to retire because I couldn’t leave my belt with Julianna, no way,” Nunes said at UFC 289 media day. “No way. It can be with somebody else but with Julianna? No. I know I can kick her ass any time I want. That day was a day that I think she was supposed to win that day, I was supposed to make the mistake that I made to fight without being in my great shape and I paid for it and I’m never gonna do that again. Ever. Ever, ever, ever.

“She’s not that good, you know?” she continued. “She’s not that good and that was hard to swallow. She’s crazy. She moves forward to punch and just be tough and have the belt. She can get hit and no, it’s like no way. I knew I’m gonna go back there and get the belt again.”

Nunes and Pena were originally scheduled to settle their 1-1 score at UFC 289 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, this weekend (Sat., June 10, 2023). That was until a rib injury forced Pena out of the trilogy, leading to Mexico’s Irene Aldana saving the day in her first career UFC title opportunity.

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MASSIVE MIDDLEWEIGHT MATCH! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) makes its highly anticipated return to Sydney, Australia, for the first time in five years on Sat., Sept. 9, 2023, with a 185-pound world title fight inside Qudos Bank Arena. In the ESPN+-streamed pay-per-view (PPV) main event, Middleweight roost-ruler, Israel Adesanya, plans to silence No. 5-seeded contender, Sean Strickland. In UFC 293’s hard-hitting Heavyweight co-main event, No-6-ranked fan favorite, Tai Tuivasa, locks horns with towering Russian, Alexander Volkov (No. 8).

Don’t miss a single second of EPIC face-punching action! will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 289 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the early “Prelims” matches at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+, followed by the remaining “Prelims” undercard balance at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+, before the final PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 289: “Nunes vs. Aldana” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here. For the updated and finalized UFC 289 fight card and PPV lineup click here.

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