Nunes (18-4 MMA, 11-1 UFC), the UFC women’s featherweight and bantamweight champion, was pushing to defend her belt from the higher weight class next. That didn’t materialize, though, as she will be putting her 135-pound belt up for grabs against de Randamie (9-3 MMA, 6-1 UFC) at the December event.
The reason for that apparently came down to de Randamie. Despite the champion not being keen to cut weight, Nunes finally gave in after “The Iron Lady” refused to sign the contract for 145 pounds. De Randamie said that was for good reason.
“She’s right – I declined the fight at 145,” de Randamie said during a recent UFC 245 news conference. “I was the 145-pound champion. No one defeated me to take that belt; only the UFC took that belt. I want the 135 belt. It’s the most active weight division. There are a lot of girls at 135, not at 145. I’ve been through a lot of (expletive), so 135 it will be.”
Other motivation to do the fight at bantamweight is to, as close as possible, duplicate the circumstances around the first fight. Nunes defeated de Randamie by first-round TKO at UFC Fight Night 31 in November in what is still de Randamie’s only UFC loss.
A lot has changed for both women since then, but de Randamie said the biggest difference for her is that she is now a complete fighter.
“The difference is six years,” de Randamie said. “She was at the beginning of her MMA career or her journey, and same for me. I was more of a kickboxer than a mixed martial artist, but that’s the difference.”
Regardless of weight class, the fact de Randamie is fighting Nunes for a UFC title at all is something of a surprise. The Dutch fighter has had a shaky relationship with the UFC over the years, and was even once stripped of the featherweight belt because she was unwilling to defend it against Cris Cyborg.
The journey back to another UFC title fight has been a long and treacherous one, and while there’s a significance behind her fighting for a championship again, de Randame said the challenge in defeating the sport’s top-ranked female fighter is even more meaningful.
“I respect Amanda a lot,” de Randamie said. “To be honest, I couldn’t care less about the belt. I just want to fight the very best, and I have the utmost respect for Amanda, and I believe she is the very, very best at this moment, and I will bring it to her.”
UFC 245 takes place Dec. 14 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. De Randamie vs. Nunes is one of three title fights on the pay-per-view main card, which follows prelims on ESPN2 and ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass.