Irene Aldana’s jiu-jitsu coach, Diego Lopes, believes she can shock the world against Amanda Nunes, just as Alexa Grasso did with her fourth-round submission against Valentina Shevchenko in March.
Aldana will head to the Great White North on June 10 for her first crack at UFC gold as she is set to challenge reigning two-division titleholder Amanda Nunes for the women’s bantamweight world championship. A winner in four of her last five matchups, Aldana stepped up to the plate after Nunes’ originally scheduled opponent, Julianna Pena, was forced to withdraw due to an injury. Despite the somewhat short-notice nature of their pairing, Aldana’s coach is confident that the Mexican-born striker can get the job done and follow in the footsteps of another one of his pupils, Alexa Grasso.
“Amanda is a tough fight for anyone in the division,” Lopes said on a recent episode of MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast. “We know she’s the best in the division, but I think our team is used to fighting that, like Alexa did with Valentina. Everybody saw Valentina as unbeatable, and we went there and did our job to win the fight.”
In addition to working with Irene Aldana, Diego Lopes was also in the corner of Alexa Grasso the night she tapped out Valentina Shevchenko to capture the 125-pound crown. The well-respected BJJ coach suggested that history could repeat itself at UFC 289 and bring Mexico its fourth UFC title this year.
“I think we can surprise Amanda like that,” Lopes said of Aldana’s chances. “To go in there and show something Amanda hasn’t faced yet, which is the level of boxing Irene has, to surprise her and bring the second [UFC] belt to the team and the fourth to Mexico.”
What’s Next For Alexa Grasso Following Her Historic Victory Against Valentina Shevchenko?
While Diego Lopes has his hands full preparing Irene Aldana for the biggest opportunity of her mixed martial arts career thus far, he expects to know what the future holds for newly crowned flyweight titleholder Alexa Grasso before long. The likeliest scenario is an immediate rematch with former champion Valentina Shevchenko, but it’s possible that rising contenders Manon Fiorot or Erin Blanchfield could sneak in and score their own title opportunity. No matter the case, Grasso and her team will be ready for whatever the promotion presents.
“It really depends on what the UFC has in mind for Alexa,” Lopes said. “We’ll be ready to fight any opponent the UFC gives us.”
Lopes will also have his eyes locked on two big impending title tilts featuring Mexico’s finest during International Fight Week in July. Brandon Moreno will defend his UFC flyweight world title against Alexandre Pantoja in a rematch more than five years in the making. The bout will co-headline UFC 290 on July 8 alongside a featherweight championship unification bout as undisputed king Alexander ‘The Great’ Volkanovski will look to unify his title against interim titleholder Yair Rodriguez.
“I’ll be watching them, especially Yair’s fight with Volkanovski, because I like to watch every fighter in my division and see at what level they are,” said Lopes, who impressed in his UFC debut earlier this month in a hard-fought decision loss to 17-0 talent Movsar Evloev. “It’s a hard fight, and it might be surprising. Yair could win, but Volkanovski could dominate the fight. I think it’s going to be very dynamic, and will go down to the small details.
“[Moreno vs. Pantoja] will be very interesting because Pantoja already beat Brandon twice, once on [The Ultimate Fighter] and then in the UFC, so let’s see what they bring to the table now. I had the opportunity to train with Brandon a few times and see his evolution. It’s going to be a very tough fight and we stay on the fence — having trained with Brandon and having a friendship with him, I hope he gets to defends the belt and keep it in Mexico because the country is working really hard for years to get to this point.”