Before he watched Amanda Nunes first step into a Strikeforce cage on a chilly winter night in Tennessee in 2011 and lay out the woman across from her in 14 seconds, Chris Vender just knew her as the girl who once picked him up from an airport in Brazil.
They’d met a year before. Vender, an MMA manager from New Jersey, had flown in to meet some fighters at a gym his then-trainer was running. When the 22-year-old girl with a lean 135-pound frame behind the wheel said she was a fighter, he humored her.
“Back then the skill level with women is not what it is today,” he says. “I think, yeah, I probably thought, ‘You’re a fighter. Good for you. ‘”
Then they got to the gym and Nunes put on her gloves and started making man after man tap.
“I’d never seen a woman fight like that before,” Vender says. “Never. You see very few true fighters; there’s got to be something inside. She’s beating up all these guys and I was just blown away.”
Vender returned to the States, and a few months later Nunes called him. She wanted to make the trip north to test the markets in the US with Vender as her manager. Today, she's 7-2 in Strikeforce and people call her the "Lioness of the Ring."
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