Former UFC bantamweight title challenger Valentina Shevchenko (14-3) makes her flyweight debut this weekend at UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Anders in Belem, Brazil. The Kyrgyz-Peruvian fighter has fought five times at bantamweight, with her only losses coming to reigning 135lb champ Amanda Nunes.
Shevchenko’s last UFC fight was one of those losses to Nunes; a split decision at UFC 215. “Everyone can see the fight and see all five rounds and everyone can see, I never lost this fight,” said Shevchenko, when speaking to Bloody Elbow.
After experiencing two close losses to Nunes, a woman who is notably taller and longer than her, the former title challenger is eager to face-off with fighters closer to her own size, at 125lbs.
“When you are fighting a bigger sized opponent; who is taller than you, has longer arms, longer legs, and is heavier than you — it’s very different,” explained Shevchenko. “You have to think about not only tactics, not only technique, but you also have to be measuring everything.
“But in this weight class, I feel like this is the weight class for me. Because at 135, I never lost one kilo, not one pound. My walk around weight is 135. For 125 I feel really great and very strong. My weight cut is going very well, I’m just a few pounds over, and everything is going to plan.”
Along with feeling comfortable about her weight in her upcoming fight, Shevchenko is also comfortable with the location. Around five years ago Shevchenko and her team stopped in Belem, during a 20-day Amazon river trip between Rio Grande Do Sul (where Shevchenko competed at the South American Muay Thai Championships) and the Peruvian border.
In these familiar surroundings, ‘Bullet’ will meet someone who is new to the UFC, and many watchers of the sport. Priscila Cachoeira has stepped up from the Brazilian scene to face the current number-one ranked bantamweight in the UFC. Given that Shevchenko is coming off of a title fight, it was surprising to some that she would face a promotional rookie this time out.
“My manager and my team contacted the UFC, for a few months, asking to make any fight happen,” said Shevchenko, when explaining how the match-up with Cachoeira came about. “It was a little bit difficult to find an opponent. Before Priscila, I was accepting all the names that they would offer me, but all the girls were like, ‘No, we are not ready now. We don’t want this fight for now,’ and Priscila stepped up.”
Shevchenko further explained that she accepted the fight with Cachoeira because she wanted to stay active and not wait a year for a bigger name to become available.
“I want to be in the Octagon,” she said. “To feel this pressure, To feel this adrenaline and just be in there.”
Shevchenko will enter the Octagon a heavy favourite versus the debuting Cachoeira. However, that doesn’t mean she is taking her opponent lightly.
“Everybody is saying she’s a newcomer, but that doesn’t mean anything at all,” remarked Shevchenko. “Because once I was a newcomer. I fought Sarah Kaufman and I won and I made my way into the UFC. This is the way that fighters come.”
“I’ve seen her fight. She is unbeaten, she has eight fights, zero losses, so she must have a pretty strong character,” continued Shevchenko.
“She has strong hands and her style of fighting is very aggressive. She likes to stand, likes to attack and pressure, so I’m not expecting an easy fight. I’m preparing as good as I can because I don’t believe in easy fights. Any opponent can be difficult, and this is my philosophy, my way of martial arts. I am preparing like I did for my last fight and I am feeling good. Only one difference, it will be in a different weight class.”
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Priscila Cachoeira takes place on the main card of UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Anders. You can watch it on FS1, beginning at 10pm ET.