Irene Aldana’s journey to the UFC belt might’ve taken a detour, but it’s still en route to the top.
The UFC women’s bantamweight title contender is looking to get back to her winning ways July 10 at UFC 264 when she takes on fellow contender Yana Kunitskaya. Aldana (12-6 MMA, 5-4 UFC) is coming off foot surgery and a decision loss to former champion Holly Holm in the main event of UFC on ESPN 16 in October.
Facing a top-five opponent in the UFC rankings, Aldana is grateful she got a quality opponent for her return.
“Fortunately, they gave me a fight in the top five,” Aldana told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “It’s a good opportunity to make a good return with a very complete fighter like Yana. I didn’t have the best fight in my last outing. It was the worst performance I’ve had in that fight against Holly.
“I think UFC kept in mind the way that I lost. I didn’t get knocked out, I didn’t get submitted, and there was a mix of situations that didn’t help the cause and just made everything worse. I had the foot fracture, I had COVID-19 before the fight, and I don’t think I fully recovered because I did feel some lingering issues. I think UFC keeps in mind all that, plus the previous fights that I had. I think if you look at all the previous fights and then compare them with the performance against Holly, you can tell something was off with me. And I don’t want to take anything away from Holly though – I know I fought the best version of her.”
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Aldana entered the the bout with Holm with a record of 5-1 in her previous six UFC outings. She currently sits in the top five of the UFC’s official women’s bantamweight rankings.
The Guadalajara native knows a win over Kunitskaya could likely place her in a favorable spot to fight for the title and potentially challenge two-division champion Amanda Nunes, who’s set to defend her 135-pound belt against Julianna Pena on Aug. 7.
“I think if I have a good showing, a dominant presentation, and have a convincing win, I think I can get back on the route to a potential fight for the title,” Aldana said. “The division is very tight in competition at the top because a lot of the top-five girls already fought for the belt. I think I can win back that spot – but first this fight, and we’ll take it from there.”
“If I win this fight, and I have a convincing win, and I have maybe another win after that against a good opponent, I think I can raise my hand again to ask for that opportunity for the title. It could be this year – why not?”
Irene Aldana def. Ketlen Vieira at UFC 245: Best photos
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