Amanda Nunes Has Nothing Left To Prove
Following the utter dismantling of Felicia Spencer by Amanda Nunes, in defence of her featherweight title at UFC 250 (Fight Notes), I said I would have an edition of Post-Fight Thoughts that would discuss the fight in further detail. I always write about title fights after the fact, but this time I had nothing else to say. The fight — if you really want to call it that — was the most one-sided championship bout I can remember seeing in the modern UFC. There simply was nothing more to say about it; for as much toughness as Spencer displayed in enduring a decision loss, that's a meager consolation prize.
Simply put: Amanda Nunes is without any equal in the current women's MMA landscape. I had similar feelings about Ronda Rousey, until the UFC signed Holly Holm, but this feels much different. Rousey's tenure was actually very brief, all things considered. And for all her dominance, Rousey steamrolled a division totally unprepared for her skillset, racked up 2 harsh losses and exited the sport with a superstar profile and a decent bank balance. Nunes was the one who put the exclamation point on Rousey's retirement: battering Rousey in UFC 207's utterly uncompetitive main event.
Since a 2014 loss to Cat Zingano, Nunes has been unstoppable, racking up wins over every notable women's mixed martial artist in her respective weight classes. The only WMMA champion Nunes has not beaten is Bellator's Julia Budd — who just dropped her title to Cris Cyborg at the end of January. I'm also not including Ilima-Le MacFarlane as she competes at 125 pounds, and has held the Bellator flyweight title for over 2.5 years.
That's it; there's no one else left. All Amanda Nunes has available to her are rematches of savage beatings, or a three-peat with Valentina Shevchenko — a fight that literally no one is asking for. And so, Nunes announced she plans to take a break for the remainder of 2020. This makes sense from a divisional standpoint, nevermind the additional factors of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Nunes' interest in building a family life with her partner Nina Ansaroff.
The bantamweight division needs time to further develop, as right now there is no one who poses a challenge to Nunes' supremacy. The featherweight division doesn't really exist, although that would not necessarily stop the UFC from throwing Megan Anderson to the wolves, or trying to orchestrate some circumstance where they justify giving Holly Holm another title shot. None of these options are appealing, they're not going to headline a pay-per-view that draws well without support, and they are unneccessary to further build Nunes' legacy.
Were it not for the abysmal revenue split between the fighters and the UFC, Amanda Nunes could be comfortably retired now. Or, retired in combat sports terms, which means she could take choice match-ups once per year or so, to score a big payday, as she sees fit. MMA doesn't really allow for this, and fighters who retire and unretire tend to do this without any leverage, the result of financial distress. Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz seem to be the few exceptions to the rule in MMA.
Women's MMA will eventually catch up to Amanda Nunes, but it's not there yet. I would very much like to keep watching her fight, don't get me wrong here, but it's going to take time to build-up credible challengers. Now is the perfect time for the champion to step away for a bit. A lot can happen in year or so, and I look forward to seeing Nunes fight again when there is a compelling challenger.
Published: June 15th, 2020.