If anyone knows Amanda Nunes, it’s her friend Din Thomas, who coaches at American Top Team. Din Thomas isn’t afraid to be honest with his fighters and he doesn’t sugarcoat things when breaking down and evaluating their matchups and opponents.
As Amanda Nunes prepares to face women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg, a woman that has been labeled unbeatable throughout her recent career, she finds herself in a role that Thomas says fits her best. That role, as an underdog, is the same one she filled when she headlined UFC 200 against Miesha Tate, when she became champion, and again when she faced UFC Hall Of Famer Ronda Rousey, who Nunes put away in the first minute at UFC 207.
In an interview with BJPenn.com, Din Thomas talked about why being the underdog is the best role for Amanda Nunes, and why the opportunity of becoming the greatest female fighter of all-time brings upside, not pressure or anxiety.
“I think that makes her feel better,” he said of her underdog status. “I don’t think she likes to go into fights with expectations. I think she goes out and performs better knowing that everyone expects her to lose. Now she can relax and say, no one expects me to win, and she can just fight her fight.”
Admitting that the fight against Cyborg will be tough is easy for Din Thomas and he recognizes that she has rarely been tested in her previous fights, but he believes if there’s one fighter who can not only test but defeat Cyborg, it’s Amanda Nunes.
“If there’s any person on the planet who can beat Cris Cyborg, it’s Amanda Nunes,” he said.
Thomas also feels that some people are underestimating Amanda Nunes, including Cyborg.
“You have to underestimate her,” he said. “Cyborg has just dominated everyone, so Cyborg has to be coming into the fight thinking it’s going to be just like her previous fights.”
“I feel as though Amanda’s power will be the difference in the mentality in the way Cyborg approaches the fight after she gets hit, because Amanda possesses a lot of power. You don’t know it until you get hit by her. If she gets hit a few times, Cyborg will have to fight a different fight.”
If Amanda Nunes topples Cris Cyborg at UFC 232, she’ll cement herself as one of the greatest fighters ever. But according to Din Thomas, that fact isn’t creating any extra pressure. Only upside.
“That’s all upside,” he said. “She’s got nothing to lose. It’s easier to go, here’s my upside of becoming the best women’s fighter of all-time, all I have to do is beat the girl in front of me. That’s a lot easier than saying she has to go in and run through the opponent in front of her. This is all upside, it’s like dessert. I see it as a positive for her.”
Thomas continued on to say that he has seen an improvement in Amanda Nunes’ balance during her training for this fight. Because of that balance, Nunes has also made an increase in her hand speed, which will certainly be helpful against Cyborg.
Jumping up to 145 pounds is something that also helps Nunes in this fight according to Thomas. He doesn’t expect it to be an easy fight and they all understand the task in front of her but only when speaking about her opponent and not the circumstances surrounding the fight.
If victorious over Cyborg, Din Thomas says there will be no arguing Amanda Nunes’ status as the greatest female fighter of all-time.
“You can’t dispute that,” he said. “There’s a lot of things in the world you can dispute, but with a win over Cyborg, you can’t dispute it. Right now, Cyborg is the best. We can say Ronda all we want, but Ronda was packaged. I don’t want to take anything away from her, she was a great champion in her time, but she was packaged.”
“At the end of the day, those who are in the game know the truth, and we know who the truthful fighters are. We know Cyborg is the truth and if Amanda beats Cyborg, that is undisputed the greatest women’s fighter of all-time.”
Amanda Nunes is facing plenty of doubt from those who will watch her challenge Cris Cyborg at UFC 232, but that’s where she wants to be according to Din Thomas, because the role of the underdog is where she thrives.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 12/29/2018.