Amanda Nunes, who is openly lesbian, shocked the MMA world Saturday night after she defeated the heavily favored Miesha Tate in Las Vegas to become the UFC women’s bantamweight champion. Nunes’ victory made history as she is the first ever openly gay champion the UFC has ever crowned. The 28-year-old is also the first Brazilian woman to ever win a UFC championship belt.
The fight itself occurred in the main event of UFC 200: Tate vs. Nunes, which was held at the T-Mobile Arena. UFC 200 had long been promoted by the UFC as the grandest and most important event they had ever held.
Nunes screamed with joy after her hand was raised and the belt was placed around her waist. After a touching embrace with the gracious Tate, Nunes spoke to UFC commentator Joe Rogan. "I feel amazing," said an emotional Nunes who then spoke of her excitement to return to Brazil and celebrate with her family.
Nunes' girlfriend is Nina Ansaroff, herself a UFC fighter, and they live in Orlando, Fla. "Nina is the best training partner I've ever had in my life," Nunes said at the post-fight press conference. "This girl is going to be the next UFC champion. I'm telling you. Look at her, she's shy. This girl has so many talents. And she is going to be back in the cage soon and show everybody that she is going to be the next champion in UFC. It means everything to me. This girl, she helps me everyday. I love her. It's amazing (to be first UFC gay champion). I am very happy with my life. That's the most important thing."
Nunes entered the fight with Tate as a big underdog, in terms of both media expectations and betting odds. The native of Bahia, Brazil, who trains at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla, had a professional record of 12-4 going into the contest. Despite having won three fights in a row (including one by submission and one by TKO) it was considered surprising that the lesser-known fighter was given the opportunity to fight Tate for the women’s bantamweight crown. Tate had earned the belt back in March when she beat Holly Holm and many had expected Tate to fight someone with more name recognition, such as former champion Ronda Rousey.
Such a sureal moment. I'm the Champion / Meu Deus Meu Deus muito Obrigada!!! Eu sou Campeã!!! pic.twitter.com/iJZ7nEQCQp— Amanda Nunes (@Amanda_Leoa) July 10, 2016
Despite the odds being against her Nunes walked to the cage smiling, clearly knowing something many fans and media members didn’t quite believe — that she had the power and tenacity to stop Tate in under four minutes. As soon as the bell rung the fight was all Nunes. Quickly she began landing hard punches to Tate’s head, over and over, making the then-champion both dazed and bloody.
Eventually Nunes’ strikes buckled Tate, though the famously resilient fighter was able to regain her composure — momentarily. Nunes continued to land stiff punches and then cracked Tate with a knee to the face. A stunned Tate attempted a lazy dive to take Nunes to the ground, which the Brazilian avoided. With Tate on all fours, Nunes hopped on her back and landed yet more strikes to Tate’s head. As Tate tried to defend herself, Nunes used her slick Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills to mount her from behind and secure a rear naked choke. Knowing the fight was lost, Tate tapped Nunes’ arm in submission.
Nunes enters the history books as the first openly gay fighter to hold a UFC championship belt. Along with this achievement, she will also forever be known as the woman who not only gave UFC 200 its most electrifying moments, but who finished off that landmark card with a stellar (and ferocious) performance that will long be replayed and remembered.
What’s next for Nunes? Many believe Ronda Rousey’s self-imposed exile from the sport is coming to an end, and with MMA now legal in the state of New York, Nunes’ next fight could be at Madison Square Garden against the biggest star MMA has ever seen. If that fight happens, it promises to be yet another historic night for both the UFC and world LGBTQ sports.