Two Title Fights Highlight U.F.C.’s Last Pay-Per-View of the Year

Two blue-collar males with mutual respect.

The biggest feminine combined martial artist of all time wanting so as to add a win towards a chattering rival.

A promoter proud of these variations.

Those attracts on Saturday, when the Ultimate Fighting Championship will maintain its final pay-per-view card of the yr, don’t generate the prompt mainstream recognition of Conor McGregor, Israel Adesanya or Jon Jones. But the matchups provide a various exhibiting of fighters whom the firm has leaned on for a number of years, a circumstance that was evident on Thursday as the fighters stared one another down after a information convention.

The U.F.C.’s president, Dana White, mentioned he appreciated the fighters’ completely different approaches. The light-weight champion, Charles Oliveira (31-8-0), and the No. 1 contender, Dustin Poirier (28-6 -0), who will headline U.F.C. 269, regarded one another in the eyes intently, however briefly talked.

Amanda Nunes (21-4-0), who will defend her bantamweight belt, wore a Gucci bucket hat whereas she bickered together with her challenger, Julianna Peña (11-4-0). White mentioned every card had a novel dynamic regardless of the frequent highlight.

“Fans respect these types of fights,” White mentioned in a phone interview.

These fights conclude a yr that closely featured Poirier, who will likely be competing for the light-weight title for the second time in his profession. In July, he fought McGregor, the brash Irish star, in the U.F.C.’s most closely marketed occasion of 2021. He defeated McGregor by technical knockout in the first spherical of what was their third combat since 2014. McGregor landed awkwardly after a blow and fractured his left tibia, a shock conclusion to every week of hostility as McGregor repeatedly insulted Poirier and Poirier’s spouse, Jolie.

Beyond cash and elevated stardom, the combat was dangerous. Poirier, who entered the U.F.C. in 2011, had received six of his final seven fights — the loss coming towards the former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2019 — and will have argued as a substitute for a title shot with Oliveira. He jeopardized an basically assured championship combat and risked having to climb up the ranks once more if he misplaced. But he guess on himself and is now in place to probably finish the yr with gold and leather-based.

“These lessons I’ve learned, I’m very grateful for,” Poirier informed reporters. “Being the world champion is forever — 25 minutes until eternity. That’s what’s going through my head every night when I go to sleep.”

Oliveira turned the champion in May when he defeated Michael Chandler by technical knockout in the second spherical. Nurmagomedov (29-0-0) retired in 2020 with an unblemished document and when he competed, he basically held the division hostage. This will likely be Oliveira’s first title protection, and an attention-grabbing matchup for him as a jiu-jitsu specialist towards a well-rounded fighter like Poirier. The parity at the high of the light-weight division for the first time since 2018 excites White.

“You never know who is going to win, and there’s going to be some exciting fights,” White mentioned. “Khabib was incredible and dominating everybody, and now you don’t know who could possibly be the champion.”

Nunes, much like Nurmagomedov, has cemented herself as one of the greatest athletes in the sport. She entered the U.F.C. in 2013 and has misplaced simply as soon as in the firm. Women’s combined martial arts grew by means of fighters equivalent to Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, Miesha Tate and Cris Justino, often called Cyborg.

Nunes defeated Tate to develop into bantamweight champion in 2016 and simply dispatched the relaxation afterward, exhibiting versatility in all of her fights with sturdy punches, head kicks and submissions. Her knockout of Justino in 2018 for the featherweight belt made her the first girl in U.F.C. historical past to be a simultaneous champion in two weight courses.

Nunes, who’s a lesbian, and her companion turned dad and mom final yr, and Nunes has been open about motherhood and her sexuality. In a bloody, male-dominated sport like combined martial arts, White mentioned her identities are necessary for illustration.

“She touches so many different types of people and that’s awesome for reaching them and converting them to fans,” White mentioned. “But above all that and everything she is, she’s an awesome human being and I love working with her.”

Nunes contracted the coronavirus in July, canceling an earlier scheduled combat with Peña in August. The delay annoyed Peña, and she or he has talked about it regularly throughout media excursions. Peña has for years mentioned she felt Nunes was avoiding her. Now, the matchup is about.

“No matter what she does Saturday, I will finish her,” Nunes mentioned. “This belt isn’t going anywhere.”

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