Before Amanda Nunes defeated Holly Holm to defend her bantamweight title and keep her title as "champ champ," she sat down with ESPN at a shoot for the 2019 Body Issue. Nunes opens up about defending her title, earning her reputation in UFC and representing her fans as an openly gay champion.
Doing the Body Issue was something different I wanted to try. Everything in my life is always like that -- maybe if I try it one time, I'll like it. And right now is the best time for me to do it. My dream is coming true, and all these good things are happening in my life. Why not do something different? Be naked, take a picture.
The fans can see the technique altogether, how the body looks under all of the fighter's clothing. It's a good thing to see.
I started training for MMA when I was 18 years old. My jujitsu coach told me, "Amanda, you should try MMA." Since that moment, I got in love with this sport and haven't stopped.
Back then, I lived in the gym. I cleaned the gym. I trained every day, even Sundays. Everything was a little difficult, but this is a part of this game. Suffer a little bit, and then everything's going to be fine in the end. When you have a dream, you have to follow and train hard.
Now I look back at everything that I passed in my life, I feel good. I was supposed to pass for all those moments to get here, and I'm very happy. If I can do it again in my next life, I will do the same.
Losing [in UFC 178] when I was close to fighting for the belt -- that was devastating for me. I was so close at the time, and I lost. I thought about giving up the sport, but I have a lot of good people around me: my wife, Nina, my family. Everybody keeps helping me to be positive and moving forward.
I changed a lot of things. First I decided to switch gyms, and I came training in America Top Team, and, of course, I work on my mind and my body, and I got everything strong, and I moved forward. And everything worked out.
Beating all those girls, I think, was a huge accomplishment in my career because I always was the underdog. People were always doubting me, and that was the moment to prove it.
When I think about all those fights, I always think, like, "Man, we did it." Sometimes, you have your people around you, but they aren't able to think like you. They're only there to be there, not think exactly like you're thinking.
In the big moments, my coach always thinks exactly what I think. And that was amazing. Like, we always have been able to put all our minds together on only one thing, and I feel so happy I'd be able to do that.
Everything that I wanted to do, I did it. Now I enjoy this moment because I work hard for these moments. Now I really can look in the mirror and say, "We did it. I did it," and it makes me happy.
When I'm training, I come to the gym twice a day and sometimes three times. My coach and I make our schedule: wrestle in the morning, strike and conditioning, jujitsu later. And we mix it up as well. I always move everything around. I don't keep everything the same every day.
I always like making some changes. My coach and I discuss every day: What is the next step? What are you going to do in the next week? Because you have to have these changes now and then for you to be able to enjoy the camp as well.
Another thing is the pain, how I feel every day. You have to listen to your body sometimes. You have to keep paying attention, like how you feel to move it forward in the camp.
Since I met Nina (Ansaroff, Nunes' fiancee) until today, we always make history together, and it's great to have her in my life. One huge moment in my career was UFC 200. It was awesome. I got to show everybody they can make it as well. If I did it, anybody can. It was that moment to show everybody that: I'm gay, and I did it. You can do it as well. I like to help people like that, be able to show them they can do.
I hear a lot from people about that message and from young kids as well, struggling to be strong to talk to their mother, their father. A lot of parents thank me or Nina, talking about, "Oh, my daughter just talked to me because they saw you guys" and things like that.
These things making me happy. If I can be able to help people, I'm going to keep doing this.
A lot of fans talk about this -- "Why doesn't UFC show more Amanda?" -- if they don't promote me for some reason. But now I feel like I proved a point: I'm the best in this game. You guys have to look at me. Look at me.
And I feel like, eventually they are going to, starting slowly. Me and Dana, we have a very good relationship, and we can talk. We can really, like, discuss my future. I feel like you have to see those things. Like, you should be able to sit down, discuss the future. Why do you not give opportunities to this person to grow more? Grow with them, give a chance, give opportunity.
And I think they do right now. I've been doing a lot of things with UFC. I'm happy in whatever it's taking to keep making history, keep making people change their mind, and we will do that.
I'm going to defend both of my belts. I'm going to defend my 135, and right after, I'm going to up and defend the 145 belt. The 145 I feel more natural because the weight cut is always hard. I've been doing this for so long, and I want to take a break a little bit. But if I be able to defend both, I will do it.
One isn't better than the other -- to be a champion is always be a champion. Both titles are very special and important for me. People can recognize everything that I did now and I'm happy for that.