After three impressive title defenses, flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko will put her belt on the line for the fourth time Saturday against Brazilian Jennifer Maia in the co-main event of UFC 255.
Maia, a former Invicta champion, isn’t fazed by being a huge underdog against the champion.
“For everything she has done in the sport that's totally natural. But that challenge just motivates me to show the fans how much I evolved,” Maia recently told Sherdog.com.
Maia revealed that she received some valuable advice from UFC two-division champion Amanda Nunes, who owns a pair of victories against Shevchenko in the Octagon.
“We have a friend in common and I asked him if he could talk to Amanda. She was so nice and sent a very long message to me. It was funny that at the end she apologized for the long message. So cute,” Maia said.
“Basically she told me to not let Valentina be comfortable leading the fight and impose my rhythm. She is very intelligent and reads your game plan very well, mainly when you keep doing a similar sequence. And we worked pretty hard to bring some surprises to her.”
According to Maia, cardio will not be an issue in the title fight.
“In that aspect we are pretty similar,” she said. “If you see all three of my five-round fights in Invicta, you will see that I also grow [stronger] in the final rounds.”
After having problems on the scales twice in the UFC, the 32-year-old guaranteed that she will hit 125 pounds on the nose come Friday.
“After I changed the professionals that took care of that, I kept my weight lower and never had a problem to reach that weight anymore and that's what's gonna happen in the most important fight of my life,” she said.
CHUTE BOXE SPIRIT: Edcarlo Monstro, Maia’s husband and head coach, revealed that they had their own Shevchenko in Curitiba, Brazil.
“I have an athlete here, Alyson Murilo, who studied all of Valentina’s fights and started to copy all her movements and style. She did a great job and helped Jennifer a lot,” said the former Chute Boxer, who added that he invited many girls from different local teams to support Maia on sparring days.
As one of the main sparring partners at Chute Boxe for both Mauricio Rua and Wanderlei Silva during their Pride heydays, Monstro believes that “Chute Boxe spirit” will also be an important factor for Maia at UFC 255.
“It´s amazing the way she absorbed the Chute Boxe spirit from me. The harder the fight is, the more she shows her big heart and grows in the fight. We had a great camp and you can expect a war,” Monstro said.
Maia herself gained extra motivation from the knowledge that she will share the main card with “Shogun,” who is slated for a rematch with Paul Craig on Saturday.
“When I started to train, I remember that we joined everybody in the academy to see Shogun´s fights. I could never imagine to be doing a co-main event on the same card of one of the greatest idols of Chute Boxe ever,” she said.
Maia also took a moment to reflect on the early days of her MMA career, when her parents didn’t want her to be a fighter.
“The beginning was so hard,” she said. “My family had no idea what MMA was and they just wanted me to go to college, but I followed my dream and today, thanks to MMA, I can financially help my parents and was able to finish my degree in physical education.”
REMATCH TALK: Jessica Andrade’s impressive knockout of Katlyn Chookagian in her flyweight debut at UFC Fight Night 180 on Oct. 17 opens up the possibility of a rematch between Andrade and Maia. Maia defeated Andrade by unanimous decision at a regional event in Brazil on Dec. 15, 2012.
“Jessica did an amazing job against Chookagian and of course a second fight between us [is] a possibility, but I wouldn’t consider it as a revenge since I defeated her back in 2012,” Maia said. “In eight years we both improved a lot and we are totally different fighters so, in case we fight again, it would be a totally different fight. Imagine how great it would be if we could make that fight happen in Curitiba. But that's something we could think in the future. Now my main focus is to fight the champion.”
« Previous Stock Report: UFC Fight Night 182 Next Ketlen Vieira vs. Yana Kunitskaya Rescheduled for UFC Event on Feb. 20 »