Posted 09/24/2014 by Jesse Scheckner in Featured Fighter

Amanda Nunes on her UFC 178 Bout with Cat Zingano: “It’s a Beautiful Opportunity”

Since joining the UFC's growing women's bantamweight roster last year, Nunes has gone undefeated, knocking out back-to-back opponents. | Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC./Getty Images

Since joining the UFC’s growing women’s bantamweight roster last year, Nunes has gone undefeated, knocking out back-to-back opponents. | Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC./Getty Images

Their paths have crossed twice before, through two different organizations. But Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes, #8 in the UFC’s women’s bantamweight rankings, and “Alpha” Cat Zingano, who rests just below champion Ronda Rousey at #1, have still yet to lock horns, their career trajectories seemingly both intertwined and jinxed.

Nunes (9-3) and Zingano (8-0) were first scheduled to meet at Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Healy on September 29, 2012. It would have been Zingano’s debut in the promotion. When defending lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez confirmed a knee injury less than a week from the event, the entire card was scrapped. Their fight was moved a week back to Invicta FC and rescheduled for October 6th at Invicta FC 3: Penne vs. Sugiyama, however this time it was Nunes who caught the injury bug, pulling out of the fight and clearing the way for Raquel Pennington, whom Zingano submitted in the second round.

Now, almost exactly two years later, they will finally settle their score.

“I’m ready for this fight,” said Nunes last week. “Right now, I’m waiting for the moment. I haven’t fought in a while, but I’ve kept going and training. At this time, I don’t have any injury at all—I’ve been training the whole time—and now I’m just waiting for my opportunity to fight. Now, the big moment—this beautiful opportunity in my life to be the #1 contender—is finally here.”

Standing at 5’8”, the 26-year-old mixed martial artist fighting out of MMA Masters in Miami, FL under the tutelage of head coaches Daniel Valverde and Cesar Carneiro is undefeated since signing to the UFC, winning both of her fights in 2013 by first-round technical knockout. A bona fide knockout machine, Nunes has won eight of her fights by striking-related stoppage, with just one submission-based finish (a rear-naked choke that put her Invicta FC 2 opponent, Raquel Pa’aluhi, to sleep in a matter of seconds).

“I train to knock out or submit my opponent,” she said. “After my performance in this fight, I will be the #1 contender.”

At seven, she began taking karate classes. When she turned sixteen, she shifted her attention to boxing. Soon, the allure of the grappling arts—BJJ and judo—beckoned her attention.

“I trained a lot of boxing, but I really started thinking about MMA when I started training jiu-jitsu and judo,” she explained. “I prefer to strike, but it doesn’t matter for me where the fight happens—on the feet or on the ground.”

"The Lioness" putting the hurt on Germaine de Randamie at UFC Fight Night: Fight for the Troops 3. | Photo: Jeff Botari/Zuffa LLC./Getty Images

“The Lioness” putting the hurt on Germaine de Randamie at UFC Fight Night: Fight for the Troops 3. | Photo: Jeff Botari/Zuffa LLC./Getty Images

Nunes attributes much of her fighting spirit to her family back in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil—namely her uncle José Alvis Nunes, a vale tudo fighter, and her mother Ivete Nunes, whose dedication and enthusiasm for the fight game left an indelible impression on her.

“My uncle and my mother love fighting,” she said proudly. “My uncle fought in vale tudo in Brazil and he was always talking to me about it—about training and stuff. My mom was always helping. She was always coaching him for his fights. I think it’s in my blood. They always told me to keep training, that I was going to be good. My mother really loves MMA. She really loves fights. She helped me a lot.”

Now on a win streak and with what is likely a #1 contender slot on the line just days away, Nunes—only four and a half years deep into her professional career—has never been in a better position. When asked about possibly avenging her last definitive loss (to Alexis Davis three years ago by TKO), she asserted that, were the two of them to fight now, the outcome would be considerably different—as would the circumstances under which they compete:

“[When I lost to Davis], my life was very crazy,” she said. “I wasn’t training hard at the time. I wasn’t focused. I was new here in America, without my family. Everything was happening so fast. I wasn’t prepared for that fight. I didn’t have a great camp for my fight with her. Where I am now, the way I’m training now, I’d knock Alexis Davis out. But for now, I just want to think about [my fight with Cat Zingano], and I don’t want to wait for the judges to decide the fight. I want to finish her. If I then have the opportunity to fight the champion, then I’ll do that and maybe then Alexis and I could have a rematch, after I fight Ronda Rousey.”

Amanda Nunes faces Cat Zingano this Saturday at UFC 178: Johnson vs. Cariaso at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV. Follow her on Twitter HERE.

(Slider image copyright Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC./Getty Images.)

Jesse Scheckner

A freelance MMA, entertainment and business journo born, raised and residing in Miami, FL, Jesse Scheckner is a former semi-serious musician, cinephile and recovering ne’er-do-well committed to nonfiction storytelling. He is the 2014 Florida MMA Awards "Best MMA Media Correspondent" winner and a two-time Miami New Times "Best Of" winner. Follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner to talk about the stuff he writes about with him.