Yana Kunitskaya and Ketlen Vieira were supposed to throw down last August. That didn’t happen.
Vieira was pulled from the card, and Kunitskaya (13-5, 1NC), a former Invicta FC bantamweight champ and UFC featherweight title challenger, went on to defeat replacement Julija Stoliarenko. Vieira, meanwhile, got back in the octagon in September, earning a win over Sijara Eubanks.
And so here the pair are once again, booked opposite each other at this Saturday’s UFC Vegas 19. Kunitskaya is happy to have the match-up back, for her part. “Yeah, you know I was ready for any opponent. We didn’t ask the UFC for any specific name. But I’m really happy that they gave me the opportunity back,” the 31-year old told Cageside Press on Thursday, during a virtual media day to promote the event. “I’m really happy to have a top opponent, a big challenge, and it makes me really excited.”
Kunitskaya knows her opponent is a well-rounded foe. “But I think her game plan will be to put me down, and we’ve prepared for this.” The big question, perhaps, is what comes if Kunitskaya gets past Viera. Of course, the fight is her number one priority, but Amanda Nunes has been busy moonlighting at featherweight. It is already over a year since Nunes, who holds gold at 135 and 145lbs in the UFC, has defended her bantamweight title. Her next fight will be at 145lbs, a division Kunitskaya knows well.
Still, it would take a considerable opportunity to get “Foxy” back up to featherweight, where she once challenged then-champ Cris Cyborg. “I feel pretty confident in 135, making weight very easy. Sometimes, it’s come to my mind to go down to 125,” she revealed. “But if it’s a big opportunity at 145, a good offer, why not?” Kunitskaya noted that she’s fought above the 155lb lightweight limit in the past, against considerably bigger girls.
As for the mention of flyweight, “125 would be pretty hard to cut, I would have to work a long time, not just for camp, I would have to prepare my body,” Kunitskaya admitted. “It would have to be a really big reason to do this, to risk my health. Not just any fight.”
Once again, for Kunitskaya, it’s all about what’s being offered. “If it’s a good challenge, big reason, why not?”
Watch the full UFC Vegas 19 virtual media day scrum with Yana Kunitskaya above! The event takes place Saturday, February 20 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, NV.