From a promotional perspective UFC 207 is all about the return of Ronda Rousey. However, there’s going to be someone standing across the Octagon from her on Friday night, and right now Amanda Nunes is the best Women’s Bantamweight fighter in the world.
Nunes, the UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion, has received little promotional backing ahead of her first scheduled title defense against Rousey, in the UFC 207 headliner at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The organization has failed to effectively tell her story to the mass public or push her into the spotlight, which will likely be to her detriment if she achieves victory.
Although Rousey’s name can carry an event on its own, especially after a 13-month layoff and a much-discussed comeback from a brutal title-losing knockout to Holly Holm at UFC 193 in November 2015, Nunes has the ability to win and should be placed in a position to maximize her fame and popularity should she beat “Rowdy.”
Not only is Nunes the first openly gay UFC champion and a proud representative of the LGBT community alongside her girlfriend and fellow UFC fighter Nina Ansaroff, but she’s also a Brazilian immigrant living the American dream and a tremendous fighter, as well.
After Rousey lost the title to Holm at UFC 193, Holm turned around and dropped the belt to Miesha Tate at UFC 196 in March. Tate has twice been topped by Rousey, but when she took on Nunes at UFC 200 in July, was battered in an even faster and more dominant fashion than what Rousey had achieved in either of her victories over Tate.
Nunes, 28, is a heavy-hitting striker with a diverse skillset on the feet. She’s also a force on the ground and is more than capable of avoiding Rousey’s patented armbar submission. Her most notorious weakness is conditioning, but against a fellow fast starter like Rousey, that may not come into a play as a fight-deciding factor.
She may not be as traditionally marketable as Rousey, but Nunes is deserving of more than what she’s got so far. Nunes has only been made available for a handful of media appearances in the weeks leading up to UFC 207, and Rousey’s decision to impose a complete media blackout during fight week has placed Nunes in the shadows, too.
The UFC 207 commercials focus heavily on Rousey. The shoulder programming on FOX and FS1 almost exclusively slant in Rousey’s favor. The tagline on the event poster even reads “SHE’S BACK” in gigantic, bold letters.
Nunes is privy to everything that’s going on, but is making a conscious decision not to let it affect her. She believes the UFC is obliging to Rousey’s demands in order to make her as comfortable as possible ahead of her comeback fight, but she insists that won’t help her inside the Octagon.
“I feel like UFC want to make it easy for her, so she doesn’t feel like she’s not the champion anymore,” Nunes told reporters at a recent media luncheon. “They want to do this to make her feel strong or something. They try to promote her so she can see that: ‘Ronda, Ronda, Ronda.'”
Nunes doesn’t buy into it.
“I am the champion. Nobody can change this. Nobody can make Ronda the champion. She is not the champion anymore. They want to make things more soft for her.”
Although Nunes hasn’t received an appropriate promotional push ahead of UFC 207, she’s still staying focused on the task at hand. Rousey has been on Nunes’ radar for as long as she can remember, and she has always maintained a confidence the matchup would eventually come to fruition.
Nunes didn’t know the circumstances of their meeting would feature Rousey as the challenger and her as the champion. However, that doesn’t change anything in her mind.
Rousey is still a transcendent superstar in the sport, and despite her image taking somewhat of a hit with the devastating loss more than a year ago, Nunes knows how much beating Rousey would strengthen her position in the sport. She intends on taking advantage of the situation.
“Ronda Rousey is the biggest name and I want to make a statement,” Nunes said. “I’ve been training for this girl my whole career in the UFC. I have a chance to defend my belt against her and show everybody the real champion.”
One shot for the champion to shock the world.
“I want to show everybody I’m here to stay, I’m the best in the world and I’m going to take over and bring this belt back home with me.”