Large MMA gyms like American Top Team can have their benefits. They can also have their drawbacks. Amanda Nunes has firsthand knowledge of those highs and lows.
Nunes left MMA Masters after her UFC 178 loss to Cat Zingano to join American Top Team. While working with ATT, Nunes went on a 12-1 run. During that time she won UFC titles and bantamweight and featherweight and successfully defended those titles.
Nunes’ partnership with the gym ended after her loss to Julianna Pena at UFC 269. Pena took the 135-pound title from Nunes in that contest, winning the belt via submission in the third round. After the setback, Nunes took the featherweight title with her and opened her own gym.
At the time she left ATT, Nunes said (via MMA Fighting), “It was always in my head that one day I might want to have a space. I want to see all my teachings on the wall, put up my logo, all those things that a lot of fighters want to do that at some point in their career. I feel like this is the moment for me. I want to go on my own for a little bit.”
Nunes recently filled in some of the blanks about her split with the team. It turns out the growth of the gym and ATT bringing in fighters who might one day be her opponents helped hasten her exit from the fight camp.
“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 (Harrison) got there and then (Yana) Kunitskaya, it began creating a weird situation for me because that was my territory.” Nunes said on MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca.
“Other bantamweights were coming. Kunitskaya, who was already at the top and could’ve been a future opponent with a win over Ketlen (Vieira). 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.”
“If there’s someone that carries the name of the team, that’s me, who brought two belts (to ATT),” Nunes continued. “If I wasn’t who I really am, a champion in two divisions, cool, no problem. But I was the champion already.”
When she first split with the gym, Nunes praised the team and the coaches at ATT for what they accomplished together and it does not seem as if there is any bad blood involved in the dissolution of her partnership with American Top Team.