In the UFC’s increasingly shallow women’s bantamweight division, there remains only one real clear contender at the moment and that’s Brazil’s, Ketlen Vieira.
Although it seems clear as day that a fight between Vieira and the champion, Amanda Nunes should be what’s next, after UFC 225 there is now speculation.
At UFC 225 on June 9th, Holly Holm earned just her second win in her last six fights when she defeated top featherweight, Megan Anderson. Holm is 1-3 in her last four bouts at bantamweight.
After this win, Holm stated in her post-fight interview that she has interest in reclaiming the 135-pound title which would mean taking on Nunes. Something the champion shared an interest in with a tweet that very same night.
The undefeated rightful contender, Vieira recently voiced her displeasure at the thought of being skipped over by the former champion.
”My team and I worked really hard for this opportunity.” Vieira told MMAFighting, “They want to put [Nunes] and Holly, but we’ve worked hard to get there. If I’m the No. 2 in the ranking that’s because of my work, not because the UFC kept me there like they did with Holly Holm. I have a lot of respect for Holly Holm, she was the champion. I respect every fighter, but you can’t simply move up and down in weight and leapfrog me. The only girl she’s beaten recently at bantamweight is Bethe Correia, who I have a lot of respect for as well, but she’s the No. 10 in the ranking. [Holm] had two losses, beats Bethe and stays at No. 1? That’s illogical. [Nunes’ team] say she’s [next because she’s] the No. 1, but it’s easy to stay at No. 1 beating the No. 10 and the UFC keeping you there.”
After Nunes’ most recent title defense against Raquel Pennington at UFC 224, if a super fight with the featherweight champ, Cris Cyborg wasn’t going to materialize she was all in on a fight with Vieira.
”Amanda Nunes said I would be next. I honor my word, I have character, my family taught me to honor my word. As a champion and an example for thousands and thousands of Brazilians, she should honor her word. If she had no interest in fighting me, she shouldn’t have said many, many times that I was next. I’m coming off a win over Cat Zingano, the only woman to beat her in the UFC. I wasn’t out there saying I was next, she said it, she said I deserved it because I was coming off a win over Cat Zingano.”
‘Fenomeno’ holds a perfect 10-0 record that features big name victories coming in her last two outings against former title challengers, Sara McMann and Cat Zingano.
Now that Pennington has been defeated, outside of Nunes, Vieira is riding the best win streak in the division.
”I’m coming off four wins in the UFC. Four. Four! It looks like Holly Holm’s record has chickenpox with all those red spots. The UFC is really trying to benefit her. She goes up and down in weight, does whatever she wants, and every time she fights is a title fight now? She fought [Germaine] de Randamie, she fought [Cris] Cyborg, and now she wants to come back to 135? That’s not fair to me and other bantamweights. It’s disrespectful. Amanda has only defended her belt three times. There are good athletes in the division. That’s not cool. My team is with me, they believe I’m ready for a title fight. I’ve been evolving a lot in the grappling and striking area. I’m only 26. The longer it takes, I’m only getting better. I’m saying I deserve it because she said I would be next, and now Holly wins a fight and they want her because it will sell more pay-per-views? It’s not how it should be. We have to have honor and not think only about money.”
Despite knowing why she could be skipped over, Vieira was still frustrated by the idea of it and feels things need to be different.
”Everybody sees that’s the reason. The last event they did in Brazil was the worst pay-per-view, so it’s clear that they want that. She wants that, or a super fight with Cris Cyborg because that will sell pay-per-views. She doesn’t think about when she was the No. 2 and wanted to become champion. She’s killing everyone’s dreams, holding the division, fighting once a year. That’s not fair.
If you talk to someone who really understands about MMA, no doubt that I should be the No. 1 in the ranking. It’s funny that everyone goes down in the ranking, drops off, and they keep Holly there. She’s coming off a win over the No. 10 and stays at No. 1. Who has a longer winning streak at bantamweight than me? That’s unfair. The UFC ranking is unfair. I don’t know why they have a ranking if they don’t follow it.”
To cap things off, Vieira stated how she will just use this as extra fuel and motivation to get better and leave a lasting impression.
”That makes me hungrier because I feel fooled because she created this expectation by saying I would be next and I trusted her because I honor my word. If I say something, I’ll honor that. That made me upset, but even more motivated.”
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 6/19/2018.