Chael Sonnen believes that UFC Women’s Featherweight Champion Amanda Nunes gave a “very fair” reason behind her decision to leave American Top Team earlier this year.
In 2021, it seemed all was relatively well at ATT in regards to its two leading female athletes. As well as Nunes attending PFL events in support of Harrison, the two-time women’s lightweight champion returned the favor at UFC 269 in December.
The cordial relationship, and Harrison’s suggestion that the possibility of the duo ever fighting made no difference in the gym, was perhaps surprising at the time, and has since unraveled with Nunes’ exit from the Coconut Creek-based gym.
While the departure was initially put down to the Brazilian’s desire to create her own personal facility, Nunes recently delved deeper into a more gripping reason. The “Lioness” admitted that Harrison’s words had made it clear that she was no longer “safe” in her own territory.
For former UFC star Chael Sonnen, that reason makes sense given how vocal Harrison had been in recent months with regards to facing Nunes down the line.
“Amanda Nunes came out and revealed why she left ATT… She said it had a lot to do with Kayla Harrison,” said Sonnen during a video uploaded to his YouTube channel. “Kayla was speaking up, and we all noticed that. And I don’t know that Kayla ever crossed a line, in all fairness. Each gym has its rule on where those lines are… I don’t know what it is at American Top Team.
“I had never seen anyone quite as vocal as Kayla, aside from Colby (Covington), but Colby was the one who was asked to leave. And I did hear Kayla speaking up, and she was saying, ‘I’d like to get to the UFC, and I think I can win the championship, and I’ve trained with Amanda.’ I mean, she was speaking up,” added Sonnen. “It was helpful. I enjoyed it from where I was sitting. But I didn’t consider it from Amanda’s standpoint.”
Sonnen: Nunes Could Have Made Things Ugly With Harrison
Much of the discussion about Harrison facing then-teammate Nunes occurred while the two-time Olympic gold medalist was testing the waters of free agency following the 2021 PFL season.
With that mind, and with a possible arrival in the UFC on the cards at the time, Sonnen believes that it was very fair for Nunes to seek a training facility away from a future rival. The former UFC and Bellator fighter also suggested that the Brazilian’s decision to remain quiet and leave prevented a potentially “ugly” situation following Harrison’s remarks.
“That’s very fair by Amanda, because what if Kayla’s right? Losing your championship is hard enough. Having a true contender coming up at the same time with the same dream trying to take everything you’ve got, it’s hard enough, it’s a stressful enough situation. Having that person do it side-by-side with you in a gym who is providing opportunity to the gender because of you, it could hurt someone’s feelings, sure.
“Amanda’s very fair to say this… It was because of things that Kayla was saying about the training room. This is selfish, this is the fan, I was enjoying the drama. (I was) not putting myself in Amanda’s shoes… (Harrison said) ‘With any level of experience, I am very confident I can go out and beat Amanda.’ That’s a lot to say about your teammate… That could’ve got very ugly, but Amanda said nothing… Amanda chose to say nothing and has now chose to leave.”
While Harrison is currently in the midst of pushing for a third consecutive PFL championship with the backing of ATT, Nunes is preparing for her rematch with Julianna Peña, which is set to headline UFC 277 in July. Judging by recent social media posts, she’s been doing so in her own developing facility.
What do you make of Amanda Nunes’ decision to leave ATT because of Kayla Harrison?