Ketlen Vieira open to fighting Amanda Nunes at bantamweight or featherweight after UFC 245

Undefeated bantamweight Ketlen Vieira faces Irene Aldana in her return to the Octagon at UFC 245. | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

RIO DE JANEIRO — Ketlen Vieira returns from a long layoff to take on Irene Aldana in the preliminary portion of UFC 245 in Las Vegas, Nev., on Dec. 14, and expects to be next for a UFC belt even if she refuses to think too much about it.

Vieira met with Brazilian reporters during a UFC media day in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday to discuss her upcoming bantamweight clash with Aldana, and said that she would be willing to move up to 145 pounds to challenge Nunes in 2020.

Nunes, who holds both 135- and 145-pound titles in the UFC, said recently that she was hoping to defend the featherweight throne against Germaine de Randamie at UFC 245, but her opponent was adamant to challenge for the bantamweight belt instead.

What if Nunes insists to compete in a heavier weight class against Vieira, who is 4-0 as a bantamweight in the Octagon?

“I’d shake hands with her and say let’s do it,” Vieira said with a laugh. “We’re both big athletes and I can fight at 135 or 145, which would be even easier since we wouldn’t suffer too much (cutting weight), but I leave that decision with my team. It’s up to ‘Dede’ (Andre Pederneiras). I’m confident in whatever he says.”

Vieira hasn’t fought since a split decision over Cat Zingano in March 2018, courtesy of a serious knee injury that kept her for more than 18 months. The time off worked in her favor, Vieira says, as she wasn’t sure back then if she was a win away from a title shot.

That said, “Fenomeno” doesn’t look past Aldana.

“I’m the No. 2 in the rankings and Amanda will fight the No. 1 on the same night,” Vieira said. “I don’t see anyone else after I win this fight. I’ll automatically become the No. 1. Of course, every fighter wants to become champion, it’s my dream, but I’m focused on Irene Aldana now. To me, Irene Aldana is the one who has the belt right now.

“I can’t bite off more then I can chew. She’s on a roll, it’s her fourth fight this year, so it’s definitely a test for me. I’m happy and motivated. I’m grateful to be fighting again.”

The Nova União fighter predicts that Nunes will remain the bantamweight champion after UFC 245, but what if de Randamie shocks the MMA world at the T-Mobile Arena on Dec. 14 and the company decides to book an immediate rematch between the two?

“I’ll do whatever my coaches think I should do,” Vieira said. “If ‘Dede’ thinks I have to fight 10 more times, I will. I trust them.”

“If that happens, we’ll sit and wait,” Pederneiras responded. “She will be 11-0 in MMA and 5-0 in the UFC, including a win over Cat Zingano, the only one that defeated Amanda, and also Sara McMann, a former title challenger.”

Pederneiras says the UFC hasn’t officially promised Vieira a title shot with a win on Dec. 14, but the head coach thinks it’s “obvious” it must happen next.

The chance for the gold could some sooner, though, if something happens to de Randamie before UFC 245. Vieira’s team weren’t informed that it would be the back-up plan for the championship contest in that case, but Vieira would “absolutely” agree to stepping in against “The Lioness.”

“The Iron Lady” has pulled out from four UFC fights due to injuries between 2014 and 2017, but was victorious every time she entered the Octagon since her first-round defeat to the Brazilian in 2013.

For Pederneiras, it all makes sense, but it would have to be something official for them to cut an extra pound the morning before the event.

“I can’t count on something that isn’t expected,” Pederneiras said. “It’s hard to make someone suffer (cutting weight), and then she loses the next day because she suffered too much for nothing? I have to do what’s in the contract. Unless they say, ‘make 135 because it might happen,’ then we’d do it. But they have to say it first.

“You train for either three or five rounds. You’d force a fighter that hasn’t prepared to go five rounds and that’s complicated… If it happens we wouldn’t run away from it, but we’re focused on Irene. Let’s see what happens.”

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