Mayra Bueno Silva ready to usher in post-Amanda Nunes title era at UFC 297: ‘I am the chosen one’

TORONTO – UFC 297 will mark a new chapter in the history of the women’s bantamweight division when Mayra Bueno Silva and Raquel Pennington fight for the vacant championship left behind by Amanda Nunes.

After years of dominance atop the weight class, Nunes retired from competition in June, leaving the belt without an owner. More than six months later, a new champion will finally be crowned when Silva (10-2-1 MMA, 5-2-1 UFC) takes on Pennington (15-8 MMA, 12-5 UFC) in the co-main event at Scotiabank Arena.

It will be just the second time in the history of the division, and first time since the March 2016 bout between Miesha Tate and Holly Holm at UFC 196, that a 135-pound title fight will not feature Nunes or Ronda Rousey. They have been the faces of this division since its introduction to the UFC more than a decade ago, and now Silva is ready to take over.

“I am the champion – I am the chosen one,” Silva told MMA Junkie on Monday. “This division is not a great division. The UFC is not talking too much about the bantamweight division. They talk about Ronda or they talk about Amanda. They don’t talk about this division. This division used to be a big division in the UFC. Now I feel I can do this.”

Silva, No. 4 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie women’s bantamweight rankings, knows she has a difficult task ahead. No. 2 Pennington has more fights than anyone in the history of the division, and she has title fight experience on her resume in the form of a May 2018 loss to Nunes.

The Brazilian is giving her opponent the ultimate respect going into UFC 297 (pay-per-view, ESPNews, ESPN+), but Silva, 32, is confident she has a superior skill set to Pennington, 35, and it will show inside the octagon.

“She has good boxing, she has a good clinch – she’s tough,” Silva said. “She stay in the top five for a long time. But I believe I’m better than her in everything. My jiu-jitsu is better, my boxing is better, my wrestling is better, but she’s very tough. She’s very dangerous.

“Her fights are great fights, but they’re not very exciting. I believe my style is different. My style is more dangerous and exciting for everybody. I promise I will give a big show.”

Silva said she’s fully locked in on the victory at UFC 297, but it’s hard to ignore what could possibly come after that. The UFC is expected to return to her native Brazil for a pay-per-view event in Rio on May 4, and Silva said it would be a dream to attempt her first defense on that card.

“My focus now is on Saturday night,” Silva said. “But of course, when I win, I want to fight in Brazil.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 297.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie