Flyweight Jennifer Maia sounds like she likes her division’s title picture a whole lot more now that long-reigning champion Valentina Shevchenko has lost the belt. Paired up against Casey O’Neill for a fight at UFC 286, the Brazilian considers the current situation a good opportunity for her to start a new title run.
In a conversation with Ag Fight, Maia praised the new champion, Alexa Grasso, while also explaining how she’s been reinvigorated from seeing a new woman at the top of the division. However, the 34-year-old believes it will be difficult for the Lobo Gym athlete to reign over the weight class for as long as predicessor.
“I did think Valentina was going to have problems, because nobody is unbeatable. I knew Grasso was a very determined athlete and would be a handful for her. It wasn’t a big surprise that she lost the belt, even though she is still the greatest flyweight in history,”
“I was happy Grasso became champion,” Maia said. “It mixes the division a little and that motivates me to try and conquer the title. I think it’s going to be difficult for her to stay the champion for as long as Valentina did, but she’ll do everything she can to keep the belt.”
In her last outing, Maia (20-9-1) scored a unanimous decision win over Maryna Moroz, in November 2022. The victory snapped a two-fight losing skid for the 34-year-old, with unanimous decision losses to Manon Fiorot and Katlyn Chookagian.
Maia is expected to take on O’Neill at UFC 286, on March 18, in London, England. The card is scheduled to be headlined by a rubber match for the welterweight title between champion Leon Edwards and former title-holder Kamaru Usman.