Kayla Harrison manager suggests Amanda Nunes retired to avoid fight

Kayla Harrison | Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Kayla Harrison vs. Amanda Nunes might not be out of the question just yet.

A bout between Harrison and the former two-division champion has been discussed for years, with Harrison dominating in the PFL before recently joining the UFC, and Nunes going on a legendary 14-1 run that saw her capture UFC gold at 135 and 145 pounds. The fact that the two had trained together at American Top Team in Florida only added to the intrigue.

But Nunes retired in June 2023 following a dominant decision win over Irene Aldana at UFC 289, 10 months before Harrison debuted at UFC 300 with an impressive submission of former champion Holly Holm. Harrison’s manager Ali Abdelaziz is now suggesting that Nunes’ retirement had as much to do with Harrison’s ascension as it did Nunes being satisfied with her career.

“You have to understand, Amanda Nunes did everything,” Abdelaziz told Submission Radio. She retired because Kayla was coming to the UFC, No. 1. She left ATT because Kayla was training there. She turned on the people who really helped her, like Dan Lambert and ‘Conan’ [Marcus Silveira] and everybody who helped her because Kayla was getting more attention and she’s grown, and [Nunes] knew they were going to have to fight. Amanda Nunes. her biggest nightmare in here, it was Kayla, and this is why she retired. She has a lot of pride in her. She retired because of Kayla Harrison. And now she said she wants to come back. I don’t think she ever comes back. but if she comes back, that’ll be amazing.

“She trained a couple of times [with Harrison] and whatever happened in the training room happened, and she never wanted to train with Kayla again. She didn’t want to spar with Kayla again. She starts training by herself away from the team. Every time Kayla comes to the gym, she left. ATT really created who [Nunes] is and she turned on them because she thought Kayla’s coming. And you know what? She was coming. She was right, Kayla’s coming, but she was the champion. She was jewel of the gym, but her insecurity and uncertainty about beating Kayla allowed her to leave the gym.”

Nunes had some fun following Harrison’s UFC 300 win, expressing disappointment on social media that she wasn’t called out in Harrison’s post-fight speech. Harrison responded to Nunes’ reaction on The MMA Hour, explaining, “She’s been retired for a while now, Harrison said. “If Amanda was still here, and she was holding the belt, then I would have been calling for Amanda Nunes. But for all intents and purposes, I thought she was happily retired and living her best life.”

Since her retirement, Nunes hasn’t made any serious overtures regarding a comeback, and Abdelaziz thinks it has no effect on Harrison’s legacy whether or not “The Lioness” fights again.

“I don’t know,” Abdelaziz said when asked if Harrison and Nunes will ever fight. “I think Amanda, she missed the attention, and I think enough pressure from me and you talking about it, all the media talking about it, it might tickle her ego a little bit for her to come back.

“But it doesn’t matter. If she wants to come back, she can come back. She’s going to take this loss and go back to retirement.”

Harrison was already a famous fighter prior to signing with the UFC. The 33-year-old was the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in judo, which she did in 2012 at the London games, and then the first to do it twice when she repeated four years later in Rio de Janeiro. She then went on to win two PFL tournaments competing at 155 pounds.

Given Harrison’s impressive accomplishments, Abdelaziz sees her becoming one of the biggest stars in MMA—perhaps someday surpassing the fame of Harrison’s former judo training partner Ronda Rousey.

“Honestly, Ronda’s cool, but I think Kayla is 4.0 compared to Ronda,” Abdelaziz said. “It’s not even the same skills, it’s not the same work ethic, it’s not the same heart. She’s a much better fighter than Ronda was or will ever be, this is my humble opinion. Not taking anything away from Ronda, she’s a legend, but prime Kayla [vs.] prime Ronda, Kayla would kill Ronda in a fight. This is my opinion.

“Kayla will be the biggest female star in history, I’m telling you. … Ronda cannot fight like Kayla can. Kayla will never quit. Kayla, she was always in a fight, even tough fights. She fought a whole bunch of girls on steroids and she beat all of them. But in reality, it’s just a matter of time, like what happened with Khabib. Nobody wanted to fight him. … I just think she’s this type of fighter. She’s the kind of fighter who people are going to avoid her, but they’re going to run out of road and they’re going to have to face her one day.”

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