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Amanda Nunes isn't bothered by Julianna Peña's trash talk, says it won't end well for her

·Combat columnist
·4-min read
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LAS VEGAS — Julianna Peña has made what are, quite frankly, puzzling comments in the buildup to her fight against bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in the co-main event of UFC 269.

Peña has said that Nunes has been ducking her and knew she was a bad matchup. That’s silly given all Nunes has done in becoming widely recognized as the greatest female fighter in MMA history.

Nunes is on a 12-fight winning streak, which includes two victories over Valentina Shevchenko as well as wins over Holly Holm, Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg, among many others.

If Nunes didn’t duck them, she most certainly hasn’t ducked Peña, who has exactly one win in the last 29 months.

“I don’t know why [she’s saying that]," Nunes said.

It’s not new, though. On Sept. 15, 2016, only two months after Nunes first won the bantamweight title, Peña went off on her on Instagram.

“Amanda is ducking me!!” Peña wrote. “She's waiting to fight Honda. #FIGHTME! I don't blame her because she knows Honda [Ronda Rousey] is the easiest fight in the division now. She's broken. She's the easiest pay day for Amanda. Amanda is sitting on the sideline as the ‘champ’ when all the girls before her didn't! Holly and Miesha are true fighters. They didn't wait. They didn't hide their belts and wait for a pay day. They fought. They acted like the champion should. They looked at the next toughest girl in line and said 'Let's find out who's best' like a #champion should.”

That’s quite a statement given when it was made, but it hasn’t really held up well. Since Sept. 15, 2016, Peña has gone 2-2, losing to Shevchenko and Germaine de Randamie and defeating Nicco Montaño and Sara McMann. In that same period, Nunes is 8-0 and not only added the featherweight title, but defended it successfully twice.

Nunes, though, isn’t put off much by Peña’s talking. She’s an easy-going type who doesn’t show anger much until she’s in the cage, when she then bludgeons opponents with hammer-like hands.

“It’s not true what she says,” Nunes said. “I’m ducking nobody. That is not true. When she says all of those things, it’s bad for her.”

Nunes said she doesn’t pay attention to what her opponents say before fights and usually only hears about the comments if they show up when she searches the internet or media ask her about them.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 06: In this handout image provided by UFC, (R-L) Amanda Nunes of Brazil punches Megan Anderson of Australia in their UFC featherweight championship fight during the UFC 259 event at UFC APEX on March 06, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Undefeated since 2014, Amanda Nunes is riding a dominant 12-fight winning streak into Saturday's matchup versus Julianna Peña. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

She pulled out of the fight that had been scheduled in September when she got COVID-19, prompting Peña to renew the ducking cries. But Nunes has been everything a champion should be.

She has fought the best of the best and she insists she’ll continue to do so. Her training partner, Kayla Harrison, is currently a free agent and the UFC is among several promoters interested in signing her. If Harrison signs with the UFC, it will be with the express intent of challenging Nunes for the title.

Nunes is first on the Yahoo Sports pound-for-pound list, with Harrison at No. 3, just behind Shevchenko.

Asked if she’d fight Harrison, she looks puzzled. So many of her peers arbitrarily rule out a fight against a close friend or a training partner. Not Nunes.

“I’m the champion,” she says, almost as if she has no choice.

The champs have more far say in their opponents than almost anyone else, but Nunes is the type of competitor to run toward, not away, from challenges.

If it’s Harrison, it’s Harrison.

But that’s down the road, and the here and now is Peña. Nunes dominated Tate when she won the title from her in 2016, and she pointed out that Tate and Peña are close and have trained together a lot.

“Honestly, what concerns me about her game?” Nunes said. “Honestly, nothing. I’m going to be honest with you. Everything about her game, I’ve seen before. I’ve beat the most tough girls many times, even her training partner, best friend. It’s the same style. When I see Miesha Tate fight, you see Julianna Peña fight. They’re pretty much the same fighter.”

That remains to be seen. But to borrow a phrase from Nunes, we’ve seen this game before.

And like most times, it won’t end well for Nunes’ opponents.

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