Valentina Shevchenko has owned the UFC women’s flyweight title since she defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk by decision in December 2018. Since that win, Shevchenko has successfully defended her title six times. On Saturday, she looks to make her seventh defense of the UFC women’s 125-pound crown when she faces Taila Santos in the co-main event of UFC 275.
Shevchenko, who is the No. 1 fighter in the official UFC women’s pound-for-pound rankings, says that one secret of her success is a decision she made early in her MMA career. That secret? Remove the things from her life that might sidetrack her from her goal of being the best fighter she could be.
“I was happy to figure out that all these other things are going to just distract from my goal,” Shevchenko said on a recent edition of The MMA Hour. “I discovered this pretty early and from that moment I was thinking ‘What do I want? What do I really want?’ And I knew that what I wanted was to be a fighter and to do in my career as much as I can. Just do what I like to do and I just got rid of all distractions — for now.”
The 34-year-old added that while she has removed distractions from her life, that doesn’t mean her focus will always be on her fight career.
“I know it’s not going to be forever,” said Shevchenko. “I just want to continue the same lifestyle that I have, that’s why I completely understand what I am doing, where is the limit and when I want to cross the limit.”
That distraction free lifestyle has led to success for the champ, who is 22-3 overall and who has not lost a fight since she dropped a split-decision to then-UFC women’s bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes in 2017.
Shevchenko said that her focus on her career is one of the main reasons she has been so successful during her run as UFC champion. Another thing that keeps her from falling into the trap of complacency is that keeping her title outweighs her desire to be comfortable in the cage.
“Sometimes when it happens (she doesn’t feel ‘into’ a fight) and you feel, ‘okay, it’s not going to happen. I feel comfortable. It’s a comfort zone. We’re just hanging around and I’m not tiring,’ but then you start to think, ‘If I would continue to fight like that, I will lose my belt. I will lose the fight. Do I agree with that and continue to do nothing just to be comfortable? No.’ And this is what pushes me every time,” said Shevchenko.
Santos is on a four-fight winning streak headed into UFC 275. She is coming off a November submission win over Joanne Wood. That win, which garnered Santos her first UFC fight-night bonus, earned her the shot at dethroning Shevchenko.
Shevchenko enters UFC 275 with TKO finishes over Jessica Andrade and Lauren Murphy in her two most recent title defenses.