Updated: Jun 22
The sporting world is still reeling from the shock announcement of Amanda Nunes, the two-division UFC queen, calling it a day on her illustrious career. Following a convincing five-round victory over Irene Aldana to defend her bantamweight title in the main event of UFC 289, Nunes announced her retirement, a decision that has potential implications for the future of the featherweight division.
After Nunes' retirement announcement, Dana White, the UFC President, hinted that the 145-pound division could be dissolved. "The answer is probably yes," he admitted during the post-fight conference. However, he added, "I don’t make these decisions right after a fight. She told me when she walked over to the side of the cage that she was retiring. I don’t know, but it makes sense.”
The UFC's featherweight division was initially established after signing Cris Cyborg, but the inaugural women’s featherweight title was contested at UFC 208 in February 2017, with Germaine de Randamie defeating Holly Holm to claim the belt. De Randamie was later stripped off the belt, and Cristiane Justino stepped in, captured the belt by besting Tonya Evinger at UFC 214. "Cyborg" defending it twice before suffering an upset loss to Nunes at UFC 232 that made the "Lioness" a two-division champion.. Since 2017, Nunes has hopped between weight classes to defend her titles.
The company did attempt to bolster the featherweight division with a season of The Ultimate Fighter in 2018 dedicated to finding featherweights, but many of the competitors are no longer active in the division or the UFC. There were only 24 different women to choose from in the promotions most exclusive division and the UFC only had 27 total women’s featherweight fights (through May 2023). The departure of Nunes, who was effectively the face of the division, could potentially hasten its demise.
While the UFC deliberates on contenders for the now-vacant women's bantamweight championship, the future of women's MMA hovers in uncertainty. Nunes' departure underscores a shift seen in other organizations that have increasingly promoted women's featherweight fights.
The reigning 145-pound champion for Bellator is none other than "Cyborg", a significant figure in the featherweight division, while PFL recently introduced the division as part of its 2023 season. This reflects a potential change in focus for the future of women's MMA.
Nunes' last successful featherweight title defense occurred in March 2021, where she defeated Megan Anderson with a sublime submission in the first round at UFC 259. Her retirement throws the featherweight division into uncertainty, possibly requiring athletes to seek opportunities in other promotions like Bellator or PFL. This is, of course, unless Invicta FC decides to resurrect its 145-pound title. With Nunes' retirement, the stage is set for a reshuffling of the landscape in women's MMA, a thrilling prospect for the sport's evolution.
Nunes' retirement undoubtedly leaves a gap in the division and the sport, as she was a dominant force who held titles in two divisions. The future of the featherweight division appears to be hanging in the balance, and Nunes' departure might just be the final nail in the coffin. The question of who will rise to fill the void left by Nunes remains to be seen, but her influence on the sport and her division will not be forgotten. 🏆🦁🏆
For more on the current women's featherweights and where they are check out this article by MMA Junkie
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