Nunes, “Do Bronx” Cheered, Dariush and Fugitt Jeered at UFC 289 Press Conference

Amanda Nunes and Irene Aldana, UFC 289 pre-fight press conference Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

Vancouver, Canada — It was hard to tell who the bigger villain was at Thursday’s UFC 289 press conference.

Adam Fugitt knew coming in he’d be in the spoiler role, paired up with Canada’s own Mike Malott in a main card welterweight match-up. But a bigger surprise was seeing Beneil Dariush, who prior to this week seemed to be in the fans’ good graces, treated as a villain perhaps one step shy of Thanos by the Vancouver UFC faithful.

Dariush is fighting Charles Oliveira in Saturday’s co-main event, a fighter whose only connection to Canada, honestly, is losing here on four prior occasions.

“Do Bronx” will try to right those wrongs on Saturday, with a title shot potentially in the balance. Maybe. UFC President Dana White was not ready to confirm that Thursday.

“I have no idea. We’ll see how the fight goes on Saturday, but yeah it obviously makes a lot of sense,” said White. “Right here, right now it makes a lot of sense, but we’ll see what happens.”

Asked if he was concerned by that answer, Dariush said he wasn’t. “No, I’m not concerned at all.” But by the end of the press conference, the jeers might just have been getting to the streaking lightweight. Queried if he felt Oliveira might be more dangerous coming off a loss (and the loss of his title, for that matter), as a hungry — or as Oliveira himself put it, wounded — lion, Dariush was dismissive.

“It’s Charles Oliveira man. He’s dangerous. He’s always dangerous, he’s always prepared. I’m not going to go in there thinking ‘oh he’s lost his last fight, he’s going to come in here soft.’ Come on, man. I’m not a child anymore, I’ve grown up. I understand who Charles Oliveira is, and I know what I’ve got to do, and I’m going to go in there and do it.”

A staple of all numbered UFC events, the pre-fight presser in Vancouver opted to bring out the entire cast of UFC 289’s main card for the affair, most of whom had been extensively grilled by the media one day prior.

The difference being, with fans in attendance — not a full house, but a solid number for a Thursday afternoon with many still stuck at the office — this was more about spectacle than any in-depth questions.

The UFC excels at spectacle. But with headliners Amanda Nunes and Irene Aldana civil with one another throughout, there was little chance of anything explosive coming out. Dariush being treated as a heel rather undeservedly might have been the biggest twist, but then, Oliveira was a popular champion.

Nunes, meanwhile, told Cageside Press about what drives her at this point, when asked if she had anything left to prove.

“Honest, it’s the competition that’s driving me forward,” said “The Lioness,” who added that “I love to compete, I love this moment, I love this process. I’m born to do this, I’m born to have these two belts.”

Nearly every Nunes answer was greeted with cheers. Aldana, for her part, was far from a villain, with fans giving her plenty of love as well (with one fan in particular quite literally yelling out that he loved her). Oliveira got plenty of love from the crowd, as did the other Canadian in attendance, Marc-Andre Barriault.

By all accounts, at the gate anyway, UFC 289 has been a rousing success so far. Whether it draws interest from fans at home is another matter— but as dominant as Nunes has been, she has been beaten before. And Aldana’s own teammate, Alexa Grasso, is a prime example of why there are no safe bets in MMA, having dethroned another dominant champ in Valentina Shevchenko just a few short months ago.

UFC 289 Pre-Fight Press Conference Photo Highlights


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