Two-division UFC champion Amanda Nunes is without question the most decorated female fighter in promotional history. And given her dominant track record against elite-level competition, it’s fair to consider her one of the best fighters on the planet regardless of gender.
A well-rounded aggressor with an undeniable ability to finish a fight, the 32-year-old “Lioness” has compiled a 19-4 overall record that includes 16 victories by way of finish. She’s won 10-straight fights and has beaten every female fighter to have ever held a title at flyweight, bantamweight, and featherweight in the UFC.
Since 2016, Amanda Nunes has earned wins over some of the most notable fighters in women’s MMA including Valentina Shevchenko, Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg, and Holly Holm. She finished Tate, Rousey, Cyborg, and Holm, and to make her accomplishments even more impressive, she finished both Rousey and Cyborg in less than a minute each.
Could this dominance, however, actually be hurting Nunes’ star power and overall appeal to fans?
It’s certainly a question to consider heading into her first featherweight title defense, which will take place against Felicia Spencer in the main event of Saturday’s UFC 250 from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
While the card may not be the strongest or the most eye-popping from top to bottom, there are certainly some intriguing fights to look forward to, although there doesn’t seem to be all that much buzz around the event and specifically around the main event between Nunes and Spencer.
When considering Nunes, it seems as if she has all the makings of a star. Her fighting style, for example, is incredibly entertaining. Sure, she’s been in some in fights that haven’t been the most exciting, but typically, she comes to fight and comes to finish and she’s proven that on more than one occasion.
She also appears to be a genuine and likable personality in addition to being able to relate to various audiences such as the Brazilian fanbase and the LGBTQ community. Given these traits, one would think that a Nunes main event would draw the interest of the masses, but once again that doesn’t seem to be the case leading up to UFC 250.
Because of that, one would have to think that her dominance, although certainly a positive for herself as a fighter, has to play a factor. Simply put, she’s beaten the best that women’s MMA has had to offer her and, for the most part, she’s done it in spectacular one-sided fashion. This may lead fans to assume that she’ll continue this trend and that there’s not anything new to see with her.
Perhaps a larger problem, however, is the lack of competition available to her, which coincides with her level of dominance. At 135 pounds, for example, she’s defended her title five-straight times. And in terms of the division, Tate and Rousey have both retired and Nunes has already beaten four of the top 10 fighters including Germaine de Randamie twice.
While anything can happen when the cage door closes, at this point, it’s difficult to pinpoint a fighter at bantamweight that would seem to realistically provide Nunes with a never before seen type of challenge. And at featherweight, the issue is even more prevalent, as the UFC has failed to build a complete division, which is shown by the fact that there are no official rankings at 145 pounds.
With Spencer, the 29-year-old former Invicta champion has proven to be a tough and gritty fighter, especially in the grappling department, but she’s far less experienced than Nunes and few appear to be favoring her over the “Lioness”.
Should Nunes come out victorious on Saturday night, the question of what’s next will once again be asked and the answer will once again be difficult to provide.
In terms of star power in MMA, Nunes has done everything right. She’s beaten the biggest names put in front of her and she’s done it in a fan-pleasing way. But it remains true that every great fighter needs a foil.
Muhammed Ali, for example, needed Joe Frazier. Jon Jones, meanwhile, was elevated by his rivalry with Daniel Cormier, and even Conor McGregor, the sport’s biggest star, benefited greatly from his pair of fights with Nate Diaz.
With Amanda Nunes, it doesn’t appear as if that foil is on the horizon in either division that she currently holds a title in. That is certainly a testament to the level she’s performed at and as a fighter, she can only strive to continue to perform at such a level.
In the long run, however, that dominance and lack of competition may hinder her a bit in terms of transforming into one of the UFC’s biggest-selling stars.