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Nunes a ‘different fighter’ since winning bantamweight belt

UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes doesn’t feel like the she’s the same fighter who beat Valentina Shevchenko a year ago.

She has a shiny gold belt to prove it.

Nunes will defend her title against Shevchenko at UFC 213 on July 8 at T-Mobile Arena in a rematch of a unanimous-decision victory by Nunes in March 2016 when they competed to essentially determine the top contender in the division.

Shevchenko has taken a great deal of confidence from the amount of success she had late in the fight as she seized control after Nunes appeared fatigued after winning the first two rounds. That conditioning edge could be even more pronounced in a five-round championship bout.

Nunes says she trains much better and smarter now. Her confidence has also been buoyed by winning the belt against Miesha Tate in the main event of UFC 200 last July and then defending it with a thrashing of Ronda Rousey in December.

“After that fight (against Shevchenko), I became a champion,” Nunes said while in Las Vegas for the UFC Athlete Retreat. “I became a different fighter. People forget about that. I always say that I keep surprising people and that night will be another surprise. I will keep the title in this division until I decide to do something else, like move up or down a weight class. Nobody in this division can beat me and I will prove that.”

Nunes acknowledged such a move is possible, but there are obstacles. She believes Cris “Cyborg” Justino should fight for Germaine de Randamie’s featherweight belt and isn’t overly interested in fighting Justino. Nunes could also move down to 125 pounds to compete for the new flyweight belt, but that’s a challenge because of “chocolate, chicken wings and brownies.”

A move to flyweight could also put her up against strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who has stated a desire to hold two titles and also trains at American Top Team, like Nunes.

That wouldn’t be an issue for Nunes, who says she likes and respects Jedrzejczyk, but isn’t particularly close to her.

“That would be awesome. I’d love to fight her,” Nunes said. “She’s not my teammate, she’s my gym mate. We don’t train together at all.”

Nunes insists all of her focus is on Shevchenko for now. She’s excited to get back in action after taking advantage of the downtime after knocking out Rousey under the biggest spotlight of her career and becoming a star.

“It was a good rest for me,” Nunes said. “I wanted to see my family so bad and I had a lot of things in my life I wanted to get together. I wanted to buy a house in Florida and I was able to do that. It was good.”

The rest is now over. Nunes said she expects to begin her training camp in the next few days.

GSP back to welterweight

Former UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre is apparently out of the middleweight title picture and will instead challenge for the welterweight title in his return bout.

St. Pierre, who vacated the belt and retired from the UFC in 2013, officially announced his intention to return to competition earlier this year. He was expected to challenge middleweight champion Michael Bisping, but the bout has been slow to come together.

UFC president Dana White said last week the division can’t be held up any longer and top contender Yoel Romero will get the next title shot. St. Pierre, who has indicated he wants to fight in the final quarter of 2017, will instead return to welterweight.

“(St. Pierre) says he will fight whoever the 170-pound champion is when he comes back,” White told TSN.

Tyron Woodley currently holds the belt and is expected to defend it against Demian Maia in late summer, though no date has been set.

Bisping, who is recovering from a knee injury, is likely out until fall.

White said he is now working to book Romero in an interim title fight against Robert Whittaker with the winner to challenge Bisping upon his return.

Mayweather update

Floyd Mayweather is ready to come to the negotiating table to discuss a potential boxing match with UFC star Conor McGregor.

Mayweather confirmed negotiations would begin with White this week after the UFC president wrapped up a deal with McGregor last week.

“I think the fight will happen,” Mayweather told The Telegraph on Saturday while he was in London.

White said he will know quickly once discussions officially begin whether a deal will be possible and he doesn’t plan on spending much time pursuing it if not, but Mayweather doesn’t seem to be in a hurry.

“There’s no rush,” he said. “The only fight that makes sense to me is the McGregor fight. I guess I have one more obstacle that I have to get over. When we make a move it’s going to be huge. When Floyd Mayweather fights, it’s history.

“If I do fight, there’s a 90 percent chance it’s against Conor McGregor. When I get back to the U.S. I’ll call Al Haymon and see our next move.”

White declined to reveal specifics on McGregor’s deal.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @adamhilllvrj on Twitter.

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