Nina Ansaroff isn’t fighting for the strawweight title at UFC 238, but she believes she’s squaring off with the best fighter in the division.
“I think that Tatiana (Suarez) is the best in the division right now,” Ansaroff, the No. 3 strawweight contender, told MMA Fighting at media day on Thursday. “I know she’s not the champion, but I do feel like her skillset is more dangerous than what the champion has at the time right now.”
Jessica Andrade, of course, is the current UFC strawweight champion. She won the title last month at UFC 237 in Brazil with a second-round knockout of Rose Namajunas. She does not yet have her first title defense booked, but many believe the winner of Suarez vs. Ansaroff deserves the next shot.
Ansaroff said she hasn’t been officially told that her fight with Suarez is a title eliminator, but she is pretty confident that is the case.
“It’s like the unknown that everyone knows,” Ansaroff said. “If they were already gonna do the other ones (Andrade vs. Namajunas 2 or Joanna Jedrzejczyk 2), they would have already spoken about it. I know they’re waiting to see what happens in this fight to take the next step, so I’m pretty sure it’s going to be me or Tatiana.”
Ansaroff is a significant underdog to Suarez; the second biggest on the card. But that won’t faze her, she said, as she’s been the underdog in her last three fights, all of which she won. Ansaroff is coming off a major win over Claudia Gadelha at UFC 231 in December.
“Me being the underdog is no surprise — I’m always the underdog,” Ansaroff said. “But (my partner and UFC two-division champion) Amanda (Nunes) was always the underdog for most of her career, and that never stopped anything.
“I’m just not out there in the spotlight like she was. She was on the show, that always gives you more — everyone sees you, they learn your personality, they know more about you, so it gives people more interest in the person. The UFC has been hyping her a little more, and she’s out there more than I am. And I’m OK with that. It doesn’t bother me that I’m the underdog. I’m here to fight and do my job. I’m going to surprise the world once again.”
Suarez, the undefeated winner of The Ultimate Fighter 23, has a wrestling-based style that many fighters have found difficult to deal with. Ansaroff said she’s prepared for it, though.
“I feel like a lot of her opponents get overwhelmed with the fact that she is a really good wrestler, and they panic a little bit,” Ansaroff said. “But that’s not me. My ground game is way better than anyone thinks; I just don’t like to play there, I like to strike. I’m stronger than most of the girls she’s fought. I’m not too worried about it. If I get in a bad position, I know how to get out of a bad position. I know how to avoid getting into bad positions. So, I’m not too worried about it.”
Ansaroff meets Suarez in the featured preliminary bout at UFC 238, which takes place Saturday night at United Center in Chicago.