Oliveira will face Poirier and Nunes will fight Peña in UFC fights

Two blue collar workers with mutual respect.

The greatest mixed martial artist of all time is looking to add a victory over a chatty rival.

A happy promoter of these differences.

Those Saturday draws, when the Ultimate Fighting Championship holds its last pay-per-view card of the year, do not generate instant recognition from Conor McGregor, Israel Adesanya or Jon Jones. But the clashes provide a diverse portrayal of the fighters the company has relied on for several years, a circumstance that was evident on Thursday as the fighters gazed at each other after a press conference.

UFC President Dana White has said he appreciates the different approaches the fighters take. Lightweight champion Charles Oliveira (31-8-0) and No.1 contender Dustin Poirier (28-6-0), who will star at UFC 269, looked each other intently in the eye. , but spoke briefly.

Amanda Nunes (21-4-0), who will defend her bantamweight belt, wore a Gucci bob as she bickered with her challenger, Juliana Peña (11-4-0). White said each card has a unique dynamic, regardless of the common spotlight.

“Fans respect these types of fights,” White said in a telephone interview.

These fights conclude a year that has heavily featured Poirier, who will compete for the lightweight title for the second time in his career. In July, he fought McGregor, the brash Irish star, in the UFC’s most marketed event of 2021. He beat McGregor by technical knockout in the first round in what was their third fight since 2014. McGregor has landed awkwardly after a blow and fractured left tibia, a surprise conclusion to a week of hostility as McGregor repeatedly insulted Poirier and Poirier’s wife Jolie.

Beyond money and high fame, the fight was risky. Poirier, who entered the UFC in 2011, had won six of his last seven fights – the loss to former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2019 – and could have argued for a title shot with Oliveira instead. He jeopardized an essentially guaranteed championship fight and risked having to move up the ranks if he lost. But he bet on himself and is now in a position to potentially end the year with gold and leather.

“These lessons that I learned, I am very grateful,” Poirier told reporters. “Being the world champion is forever – 25 minutes until eternity. This is what goes through my mind every night when I go to sleep.

Oliveira became champion in May when he defeated Michael Chandler by technical knockout in the second round. Nurmagomedov (29-0-0) retired in 2020 with an unblemished record and when he competed he essentially held the division hostage. It will be Oliveira’s first title defense and an interesting clash for him as a jiu-jitsu specialist against an all-around fighter like Poirier. Parity at the top of the lightweight division for the first time since 2018 excites Whites.

“You never know who is going to win, and there is going to be some exciting fights,” White said. “Khabib was amazing and towered over everyone, and now you don’t know who could be the champion.”

Nunes, like Nurmagomedov, has established herself as one of the best athletes in the sport. She entered the UFC in 2013 and has only lost once in the company. Female mixed martial arts developed thanks to fighters such as Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, Miesha Tate and Cris Justino, known as Cyborg.

Nunes beat Tate to become the bantamweight champion in 2016 and sent the rest out with ease afterwards, showing versatility in all of her fights with powerful punches, headshots, and submissions. Her 2018 knockout of Justino for the featherweight belt made her the first woman in UFC history to be a simultaneous champion in two weight classes.

Nunes, who is a lesbian, and her partner became parents last year, and Nunes has spoken openly about motherhood and her sexuality. In a bloody male-dominated sport like mixed martial arts, White has said his identities are important to portrayal.

“She touches so many different types of people and it’s great to reach out to them and convert them into fans,” White said. “But above all that and all she is, she’s a great human being and I love working with her.”

Nunes contracted the coronavirus in July, canceling an earlier scheduled fight with Peña in August. The delay frustrated Peña, and she often mentioned it on media tours. Peña has said for years that she felt Nunes was avoiding her. Now the game is over.

“No matter what she does on Saturday, I’ll finish her,” Nunes said. “This belt is not going anywhere.”

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