Amanda Nunes and Kayla Harrison at American Top Team. | Photo via Harrison’s Instagram
In fact, the two-time Olympic gold medalist was part of the reason why Nunes decided to leave the Florida-based gym.
Speaking on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca, Nunes said that starting her own team was always a “huge dream” of hers, and that reuniting with former coaches — ones who helped her prepare for fights like her win over Ronda Rousey — helped to smooth the transition. Yet the UFC women’s featherweight champion also admitted that having two potential opponents — PFL star Harrison and UFC bantamweight Yana Kunitskaya — training daily under the same roof at ATT made her uncomfortable.
“There’s that saying, like it or lump it,” said Nunes, who was also promoting her partnership with Sports Metaverse. “I was bothered by the whole situation, of course.
“There were no girls when I got to American Top Team. I was the first woman to bring two belts and put the women’s team in history. When Kayla got there and then Kunitskaya, it began creating a weird situation for me because that was my territory.
“Other bantamweights were coming. Kunitskaya, who was already at the top and could’ve been a future opponent with a win over Ketlen [Vieira in 2021]. She got there right, when she was close to becoming the next opponent. She showed up in the gym and I had a scare when I walked in. I was like, ‘No, it’s not possible.’ It was creating this situation already.
“And then Kayla started talking. I was kind of, ‘Man, I’m not safe even in my territory.’ I was kind of cornered, even because we share the same coaches. She trains with Mike Brown and I train with Mike Brown. I was already training with them when she got there.”
Having a teammate publicly voicing an intention to fight you was strange enough, but Nunes was cool with it if Harrison did her camp elsewhere.
“If there’s someone that carries the name of the team, that’s me, who brought two belts [to ATT],” Nunes said. “If I wasn’t who I really am, a champion in two divisions, cool, no problem. But I was the champion already. She would have to train somewhere else to fight me.
“But then she ended up signing [with PFL] again. It’s not a fight I didn’t want. If the opportunity is there and she wants it, cool, I’m in. A fighter needs challenges, people that talk about you and want to fight you.”
Nunes is still open to facing Harrison if she ever joins the UFC one day, especially now that they are no longer teammates. “The Lioness” said she hopes to rematch Julianna Peña in July and regain the UFC bantamweight championship, “and then this fight [can happen].”
“If she’s going to sign [with the UFC] or not, that’s up to Kayla. I’ll be waiting,” Nunes said. “That would be the correct way, in my opinion, for her to talk about me, because I’m no longer there [at ATT]. That’s the correct way to say whatever she wants on the mic, to call me out or do whatever she wants, and I’ll be waiting for her there. When she signs [with the UFC], I’ll be there to defend [my belt].”
“Every challenge is welcome,” she continued. “If you fight and like to be at the top and test yourself at all times, you really want motivation to continue breaking records. After my departure [from ATT], it’s entirely on Kayla to signing with the UFC. I’ll be there waiting for anything. Of course, it will be way better now that we’re on difference sides.”