There was no shortage of fireworks at the UFC 269 pre-fight press conference on Friday (AEDT), with the animosity between reigning double champion Amanda Nunes and bantamweight title challenger Julianna Pena dominating proceedings.
The pair will do battle in the co-headliner in Las Vegas on Sunday, as Nunes aims to defend the belt for a sixth consecutive time and extend her six-year winning streak to 13 fights.
Pena claimed Nunes broke a promise after winning the title against Miesha Tate all the way back at UFC 200 in 2016 that she would fight Pena, but failed to make good on it.
The pair were supposed to fight each other at UFC 265 in August, but Nunes had to pull out after contracting COVID-19, and the Ultimate Fighter 18 winner accused Nunes of making up that excuse too.
Watch UFC 269: Oliveira vs Poirier LIVE on Main Event available on Kayo and Foxtel, Sunday 12th December from 2pm AEDT. ORDER NOW >
“We’ve been talking about this fight for a very long time. At UFC 200 when she beat Miesha Tate she said that she would fight me and she didn’t,” Pena said.
Nunes interjected: “You’re losing. You lose all your fights.”
To which Pena responded: “I actually won and I beat the girl that rag-dolled you (Cat Zingano) as a matter of fact. I beat the girl that beat you that night (at UFC 200).
“You let Ronda Rousey cut the line after she got knocked out. You picked a can and you’ve been continuing to pick cans. Everybody that you pick has already lost and been defeated.
“This has been something that has been brewing since UFC 200 that was, what? Five years ago? You’re going to act like I’m just making this up and trying to trash-talk? This is actually facts that have happened in my career.”
Nunes snapped back: “You’re a liar girl.”
‘Don’t want to fake interest in him’: Why Whittaker snubbed Kiwi star in interview
‘Come on mate’: McGregor mocked over bid for ‘Conor v Poirier 9’
Above ‘every other female athlete ever to exist’: Only ‘car accident’ can stop UFC freak
The fiery tit-for-tat prompted UFC president Dana White to interrupt and ensure the press conference continued to flow.
“Let me jump in the middle of this … this sh-t will go on all night I promise you,” he said.
Nunes, who is also the featherweight champion and is universally regarded as the greatest female UFC fighter of all time, wasn’t too impressed with Pena as a fighter.
“All Julianna has is not to lose. I just have to be sharp because I see her style many times in my whole career, her best friend is Miesha Tate – if you watch Miesha Tate fight, it’s the same fighter right there,” Nunes said.
As for Pena’s claim that Nunes fabricated her COVID infection, the double champ said: “Why would I lie that I’ve got COVID? I did, I had it, I recovered, now I’m here ready to go, ready to kick Julianna’s ass.”
But there was another war of words that took place on the stage at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, and it wasn’t even between two matched-up fighters.
Former bantamweight champion, and new flyweight, Cody Garbrandt and flambouyant bantamweight Sean O’Malley were at each other’s throats, despite the fact they are fighting Kiwi star Kai Kara-France and Raulian Paiva respectively on Sunday.
Things got so heated between the pair that they participated in an impromptu face-off on stage and had to be kept apart by security.
“He’s won one fight since 2017,” O’Malley said of Garbrandt, who has lost four of his last five fights since claiming the gold.
Garbrandt retorted: “That’s a good one. And you haven’t fought anybody. Who the f—k have you fought? But I can’t be mad at this kid, he knows when he jumps up in competition, his hype goes away, his little sponsors go away. I’ll weigh in tomorrow at (1)25 and fight you at (1)35 and still kick your ass easy. You’re easy work.”
O’Malley responded: “That’s how stupid you are. Why would you do that? You sound a little worried.”
The incredible rise of UFC king no one saw coming
Dustin Poirier ran a ‘gauntlet of killers’. Now a big Conor gamble has him on brink of immortality
Garbrandt answered: “About what? A f—king clown sitting to my left?”
Garbrandt described O’Malley saying he’s now the champion of the bantamweight division as “comical”, calling him “a joke”.
But O’Malley didn’t let up on Garbrandt’s concerning formline which has preceded his stepping down in weight class.
“Cody is one fight away from the commentary booth next to Dominick Cruz, so I don’t know what the f—k he’s talking about,” O’Malley said.
And Garbrandt wasn’t about to let that remark go unanswered, either.
“I’ve still done more than what you’re ever going to do in this career, you’ll never amount to nothing [sic], trust me,” he said.
“Once you lose again and get carried out on another stretcher you’re going to find out where you’re going to be at.”
However, Garbrandt didn’t waste all his ammunition on O’Malley, and also had some heat reserved for Kara-France in the lead-up to what the New Zealander described as a “title fight eliminator” in the flyweight division.
“This dude begged me to fight, he put himself in this situation, I worked for this opportunity,” Garbrandt said.
“There’s a different mindset – he has an average mindset, I have an elite mindset and that’s what the difference in this fight’s going to be.”