UFC 200 was a night full of significant achievements for new UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. Not only did she become the first openly gay athlete to win a championship with the organization, but she also became the first Brazilian-born female to capture a belt.
Nunes (13-4 MMA, 6-1 UFC) won UFC gold with a sensational performance against Miesha Tate (18-6, 5-3) in the main event of UFC 200, which took place July 9th at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena. She smashed Tate with strikes early in the first round, breaking her nose of “Cupcake” and taking out of her element. Once vulnerable, Nunes slapped on a rear-naked choke and finished the job to become the fourth 135-pound titleholder in company history.
In the days leading up to the fight, Nunes wouldn’t be found anywhere without her partner, fellow UFC fighter Nina Ansaroff, by her side. Not only are Nunes and Ansaroff training partners at Florida’s American Top Team, they have also been in a relationship for nearly four years. And Nunes has generally been open about her personal life, sharing affectionate photos on social media.
— Amanda Nunes (@Amanda_Leoa) July 12, 2016
Ansaroff was in Nunes’ corner for the most significant moment of her fighting career. When the new champion walked into the UFC 200 post-fight news conference, with belt in front of her on the dais, she was asked about the pride she takes in being the first openly gay champion in UFC history.
“This is amazing, but the more important thing [is] I’m happy with my life,” Nunes told reporters as she looked toward Ansaroff, who was standing in the back of the room with the rest of her team. “That’s the most important thing.”
Ansaroff, who fights in the 115-pound Strawweight division, was barely holding back tears. She covered her face with her sweatshirt, trying to hold back her emotions of Nunes’ praise.
“She means everything to me,” Nunes continued. “This girl, she helps me every day. She’s going to cry. I love her. This girl is going to be the next UFC champion. I’m telling you. Look at her – she’s shy. This girl has so much talent and she’s going to get back in the cage soon and she’s going to show everybody she’s going to be the next champion of the UFC.”
Although Nunes is not the first openly gay fighter to compete for a UFC championship (Liz Carmouche unsuccessfully challenged Ronda Rousey for the belt at UFC 157 in the first women’s fight in UFC history), she is the first to emerge victorious with the belt.
In a conversation with USA Today Sports not long after Nunes’ domination of Tate at UFC 200, Ansaroff described Nunes’ victory as a “huge” triumph for the LGBTQ community.
“[It’s] not so much for us or the fact we are trying to get recognition as a gay couple, but for the human race as it is [huge],” Ansaroff said. “People are people. They could be your neighbor, or your next UFC champion. Treat everybody the same.
“[Amanda] is pretty much the exact opposite of what everyone thinks about her,” she continued. “When I first met her, I thought, ‘This lady is crazy.’ But she is the biggest sweetheart – she will do anything for her loved ones. She always likes to have fun. The only time she is serious is when that cage door pops.”
Although Nunes hails from Brazil, she’s spent her recent life in Florida, where she lives and trains at the American Top Team gym in Coconut Creek. A national tragedy took place several weeks ago just hours north of where Nunes resides when a gunman shot and killed numerous members of the LGBTQ community at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last.
Nunes was in a high moment of her life after winning the title, but when asked about the shooting, she used the platform to send a message about the somber events.
“It was very sad,” Nunes said. “I wish these things didn’t happen anymore. Peace in the world is very important. I don’t think USA is going to let this happen again. I think this is going to stop.”
What comes next for Nunes remains to be seen. Title fights against the likes of Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm or even Tate again are almost certainties so long as she can hold on to the belt.
Once her victory tour is over, though, “Lioness” said she would be prepared to defend her title against all comers.
“I’m the champion,” Nunes said. “Now, whatever [UFC President] Dana White put in front of me, I’m going to take it. I’m the champion. I’m going to enjoy being champion and then it’s back to the gym getting ready for the next.”