You always need to tune in for the UFC’s International Fight Week

Nunes made it hard for Shevchenko to breathe last time they squared off.
Photo: Eric Jamison / AP Photo

1. Amanda Nunes has effectively retired the two most famous female fighters in history in her past two fights, choking out Miesha Tate in three minutes last July before knocking out Ronda Rousey in under a minute in December. The women’s bantamweight champion returns to the scene of those unexpected slaughters at T-Mobile Arena in UFC 213’s main event Saturday night, to face an opponent she’d enjoy humiliating even more in rival Valentina Shevchenko. Even though Shevchenko lost a unanimous decision to Nunes in 2015, she has been confidently reminding the champ how she nearly knocked Nunes out late in their first fight.

2. “Octagon jitters.” That’s UFC President Dana White’s term for the nerves that affect fighters debuting in the world’s largest mixed martial arts promotion. And it’s time to find out whether Justin Gaethje suffers from the condition, when he meets UFC veteran Michael Johnson in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption season finale Friday night at T-Mobile Arena. Perhaps the most decorated fighter outside the UFC for the past few years, Gaethje holds a 17-0 record that includes six straight defenses of his World Series of Fighting lightweight title.

3. After more than 20 years of silence, fans will finally hear from one of the most powerful figures in mixed martial arts history. Joe Silva was notoriously unavailable to media throughout his career as UFC matchmaker, a post from which he retired late last year. He also didn’t speak publicly, but he’ll have no choice but to give at least a short speech when he’s inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Park Theater. The other inductees from this year’s class: fighters Urijah Faber, Kazushi Sakuraba and Maurice Smith.

4. The UFC will have four women’s weight classes by the end of the year, which makes executives proud. “There’s never been a sport in history that’s treated women on a truly equal platform with men other than the UFC,” said Lawrence Epstein, UFC’s chief operating officer. The MMA behemoth celebrated this rapid evolution—there were no women on its roster less than five years ago—with a Women of UFC panel Wednesday at Park Theater, where UFC commentator Megan Olivi led a conversation with a handful of fighters, including strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and featherweight standout Cris Cyborg.

5. The UFC has traditionally announced future events and fights as part of Fight Week. No major news conferences are planned this year, but the festivities could produce a couple surprises anyway—a by-product of bringing hundreds of fighters to town and keeping them within close proximity. Bonds are built enemies are established, and the 2017 edition of International Fight Week will likely go down as important in ways no one has even realized yet.

UFC 213 July 8, 3:30 p.m., $80-$1,350. T-Mobile Arena, 702-692-1600.

Tags: Sports, Fighting, UFC
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