UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes could sweep the field of obvious challengers on Saturday, but Mexico’s Irene Aldana has a historic goal of her own as she challenges for the title at UFC 289.
— UFC (@ufc) December 31, 2022
There will always be another contender. Someone new will always be the next man (or woman) up to challenge the one who sits on the throne.
But let’s be clear, Amanda Nunes is about to sweep the board. She defeated every legend near her weight class en route to becoming the UFC’s first and only female two-division champion. She is widely considered to be the greatest female fighter in MMA history. In more recent years, she has not only held off veterans but also the up-and-comers at bantamweight and featherweight. Furthermore, her one setback a year and a half ago was avenged in dominant fashion that erased doubt that her former foe was on level when the two were pushed to the limit.
Every fight for the past three years now has been more about who could topple “The Lioness” in stunning fashion. While every victory was another testament to her dedication and skill, few things can actually add to your legacy when you’ve defeated household names like Rousey, Cyborg, and Tate consecutively. This leads to Saturday’s contest where she finds herself against an entertaining title challenger who is eager to make her name. It would be another significant victory objectively, but the fact remains that each fight is now about whether the competition itself is worth it at this stage for Nunes. After cementing her place in history, the truth is that the champion likely now questions after each victory whether or not the moment could ever get better to walk away on top. If her hand is raised on Saturday again, it could easily be said that it won’t.
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— UFC (@ufc) December 15, 2019
Irene Aldana knows what’s on the line. Her home country of Mexico has had a banner year in mixed martial arts where three of her countrymen and women have won UFC titles and she has a chance to become the fourth. Further, she could do it by defeating a living legend. UFC President Dana White has fielded questions almost bi-weekly around the world about hosting an event in Mexico and an Aldana victory would put historic pressure on the company (regardless of it is only for a month) to bring the Octagon to the country. It is immense pressure, to say the least.
Similar to her teammate and “little sister” Alexa Grasso, Aldana has developed her skills from the beginning at the Lobo Gym in Guadalajara. She had her first pro-fight at 24 years-old in 2012 and was signed to Invicta FC as a 3-1 prospect in 2014. She was signed to the UFC in 2016 and since then has accumulated a 7-4 record. While she suffered losses to veterans such as Holly Holm and Katlyn Chookagian, Aldana also recorded victories over former title challengers such as Yana Santos and Bethe Correia. Her biggest victory came in 2019 where she scored a first round knockout over fellow top contender Ketlen Vieira and going into Saturday she rides back-to-back stoppage victories.
— UFC (@ufc) June 9, 2023
Should Amanda Nunes be victorious, it would not be preposterous to see her elect to walk away at the top of her game without an obvious new challenge ahead of her. Trilogies with Julianna Peña or Valentina Shevchenko or a rematch with Raquel Pennington would be possibilities, but she would enter them having already proven what she needs to against them. An Aldana victory could lead to a rematch, but any number of other opponents could materialize such as a fight with Peña, a rematch with Pennington or Holly Holm, or perhaps even another challenger in a bout that most would expect to take place in Mexico if the UFC were to get a deal done.