UFC president Dana White believes Amanda Nunes could've defended her bantamweight title against Valentina Shevchenko instead of pulling out of Saturday's UFC 213 card with just hours to spare, calling the situation "90 percent mental and maybe 10 percent physical."
The result: White revealed he will never again book Nunes in a main event, saying, ""I won't do that again. I won't headline with that title again."
Despite being medically cleared to compete after being hospitalized on consecutive days during fight week, Nunes (14-4) decided against going forward and released a statement Sunday explaining her situation, citing "chronic sinusitis."
"Everyone is wanting to hear my side so here it is..... I have chronic sinusitis, I have fought with it before but this time It didn't work out, during the weight cut I was unable to breath and felt off balance from the pressure in my sinuses," Nunes said. "I was not feeling well enough to risk getting punched in the head with such pressure. I was taken to the hospital after weigh ins and they only checked my blood and dehydration so cleared me based on that. The next day I went back and they did a CT scan and found a build up and I was prescribed antibiotics and referred to a specialist. I have never pulled out of a fight before. I am sorry to all my fans that came out to see me, I'll make it up to you the next time I step in the cage. The fight is being rescheduled. I still want this fight. I still want this opponent."
White, who talked about his hopes to rebook the fight on Sept. 9 at UFC 215 in Edmonton, broke down his own timeline of events that led to UFC 213 yet again losing a marquee bout before the card could start.
"Leading up to [Friday's] ceremonial weigh-ins, I got a call that [Nunes] wasn't feeling well, and it was questionable whether she was going to show up to the ceremonials," White told media members late Saturday. "Because the doctor needed to see her and they needed to find out what was going on with her, so, she does them, everything's good.
"[Saturday] morning, I wake up and I hear that she's not feeling well again. And ... she's not feeling well again and she's probably not going to fight. So, I asked the doctors what's wrong with her. She was medically cleared. She was physically OK, they found nothing wrong with her, but she didn't feel right."
Nunes' coach, Conan Silveira, disputed White's criticism and defended his fighter by reminding how much she had invested into the fight and that because of that responsibility, she needed to be 100 percent.
"If you have a mouth you can say whatever you want," Silveira told MMAFighting.com. "Every person has their own opinion. What [White] said is what a promoter says. It was enough for him to hear the doctor clearing her, but at the end of the day, Amanda is the one who steps in there to fight. Opinions from everyone else are nothing but opinions. You have to respect her decision. She's the champion. What everyone else says means nothing."
Silveira said Nunes was feeling ill before Friday's weigh-in and noted that Las Vegas' intense heat conspired with the dehydration from her weight cut to contribute to her sinusitis issues.
"Critics and dumb people get together and form an opinion that doesn't exist," Silveira said. "Even fighters saying she was scared. Amanda is not scared of anyone. She retired Miesha Tate, she retired Ronda Rousey. Not to mention that she already beat Valentina by unanimous decision. How did she become scared now? Know the facts before you have your opinion."
White's quickness in throwing Nunes under the bus wasn't surprising considering his history with calling out fighters. Meanwhile, his threat of never again booking Nunes into a main event needs to be taken with a grain of salt considering he has said the same about embattled former champion Jon Jones, only to make him a headliner at UFC 214 on July 29.