Although her fighting days are over, the 35-year old Brazilian star is leaving an undeniable mark on her sport. Her 23-5 professional record reads like a Who’s Who of women’s combat sports, including wins over Miesha Tate, Germaine de Randamie, Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg, and Holly Holm. Her resume includes multiple title reigns and countless awards. She has established herself as the most decorated woman in UFC history—and one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time, regardless of gender.
Let’s take a closer look at her groundbreaking career in this week’s blog.
The Early Years
Born on May 30, 1988, in her hometown of Pojuca, Brazil, Amanda Nunes originally dreamed of becoming a soccer player. But fighting was always in her blood. Her uncle, Jose Silva, was a Vale Tudo competitor and her mom, Ivete, was a fight fan with a background in boxing. When a young Amanda started getting into fights, Ivete decided that it was time to enlist her in the family passion. She signed her 5-year-old daughter up for Capoeira lessons hoping that they would provide her with an outlet for her seemingly limitless physical energy.
And it worked. Nunes thrived in martial arts training and soon added Karate and boxing to the mix. “My mother used to box, and I followed her footsteps into training,” Nunes told MMA Fighting in 2016. “She loves fighting. My uncle used to fight Vale Tudo, and my mother even cornered him in some of his fights. She always says, ‘the first strike has to be yours. She can’t touch you before you touch her. You have to intimidate her.’”
When she was 16, Amanda followed in her older sister’s footsteps by moving to Salvador to train in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Literally eating and sleeping jiu-jitsu—she lived at her gym—she spent the next few years of her life winning almost every tournament she signed up for.
A few short months before her 20th birthday, she started to combine all of her skills in pursuit of a new goal: mixed martial arts.
Amanda Nunes’s professional mixed martial arts career didn’t being on the most promising note. On March 8, 2008 in Salvador, she stepped into the ring to face another up and coming fighter named Ana Maria. Just 35 seconds later, she tapped to an arm bar. But Nunes was able to take what she learned from that loss and reapply herself. By May of that year, she was back in competition and she won her first fight with a TKO in 11 seconds. She remained undefeated for the rest of her time in Brazil.
In 2011, Nunes moved to the United States to further her career. The first few years of her stateside journey could be considered a growth period. She experienced promising victories and frustrating defeats in Strikeforce, Invicta, and UFC. After a brief time in New Jersey, she settled into the MMA Masters gym in Miami. There, she found a training partner and life partner in her fellow fighter, Nina Ansaroff (now Nina Nunes), started to figure out a better work/life balance, and things started to click.
By early 2015, Nunes had transformed from a solid fighter into an almost unstoppable generational talent. On March 21, she scored a 1st round TKO victory over Shayna Baszler at UFC Fight Night: Maia vs. LaFlare. She wouldn’t lose again for another six years.
Nunes’ incredible win streak included dominating performances against some of the most powerful and trailblazing names in women’s combat sports, multiple Performance of the Night awards, and title reigns in two divisions at the same time. She beat Miesha Tate to win the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship in July 2016.
While remaining a fighting champion in the Bantamweight division, she also defeated Cris Cyborg to take the UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship in December 2018. Although she briefly lost her Bantamweight belt to Julianna Peña in December, 2021, she was able to come back and regain the title the following summer.
She stepped into what would be her final match as a double champ with nothing left to prove and defeated Irene Aldana by unanimous decision.
After celebrating her victory in the Octagon, Nunes put down her belts and her gloves and announced that she was retiring.
“My mom was asking me so much to do this for so long, she can’t take it anymore. My partner as well, Nina [Nunes], she’s been around so much with me my whole career, she’s pregnant now and we’ve been on this road for so long. I decided right now I’m still young enough to enjoy everything that I made,” she said.
“I’ve got to travel, I want to be with my family. I’ve got to spend more time with my family in Brazil as well. I left them so young to come here and chase the dream and everything, there was never a doubt in my mind I was going to be come a champion. But when I became a champion, it was unbelievable. A double champ as well.”
Before walking into the sunset, the woman who has inspired and paved the way for so many fighters to come had one last word of encouragement for the next generation: “I have one more thing to say. I come from a small city in Brazil. The name is Pojuca. Nobody knows where it is in Brazil, but I made it here. I’ve become a champion and the only champion Brazil has right now. So, Brazilian fighters, get your sh*t together. Come get a belt, all right? I’m leaving. Thank you.”