Valentina Shevchenko was as dominant as ever at UFC 255.
Though the reigning flyweight queen dropped the second round to Jennifer Maia in Saturday’s co-main event at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, she was otherwise unthreatened in cruising to a unanimous decision triumph. That makes four successful title defenses for “Bullet,” who insists that boredom won’t become an issue as her reign extends.
The 32-year-old Kyrgyzstan native says most people don’t realize how long it actually took her to get to this point. And after a stint at bantamweight where Shevchenko provided Amanda Nunes with one of her most difficult tests, the Tiger Muay Thai representative believes she is at a weight class best suited to showcase her talents.
“This is what I’m doing. It’s what I want because finally I’m in flyweight, my natural weight class, where I feel the most power, the technique, the speed, everything. Definitely I want to compete here for a long time to defend my belt against anyone who’s gonna be in front of me,” Shevchenko said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “I heard some people there saying, ‘Dominant champ,’ something like that, ‘You are losing motivation, there is no motivation because you feel it’s easy passing everyone,’ but it’s not like that. Because the way that I did to become UFC champion, it’s not one people can imagine that they’re gonna do. For example, people who are born in the United States, they can have seven or eight fights and already fight for the UFC. Me, I was born in Kyrgyzstan, martial arts I start to do at five years old.
“Five years ago, I joined the UFC finally, right? It took 22 years from my start, moving around the world, traveling, fighting, winning world championships, moving closer, closer, closer, 22 years with a record of 17 world championships just to join the UFC. After 27 years, I became world champion of the UFC. So there is no way I am going to lose my motivation to still be the dominant champion and continue my success in martial arts because I know how hard it was.”
Maia made things interesting through 10 minutes against Shevchenko, becoming the first person to win a round against the champion since Joanna Jedrzejczyk in 2018. Ultimately, though, Maia met the same fate as previous title challengers Katlyn Chookagian, Liz Carmouche and Jessica Eye. Shevchenko doesn’t think there is an intimidation factor with her opponents, not at the sport’s highest level.
“I don’t think that it happens here,” Shevchenko said. “UFC, it’s a top league. There are no amateurs who have this mentality. Only the best in the whole world fight in here and the best have different mental settings in their head. They don’t have this fear because a fight is a fight. Of course, you’re going to face some very strong opponents, but they’re gonna go there to lose? I don’t think so because here only the best ones fight in the UFC.”
Shevchenko looks poised to continue cleaning out her division, and she already has her eye on contenders Jessica Andrade and Lauren Murphy. Though, in the long run, she will square off against any opponent. The main thing for the champion now is getting back to action in relatively short order after a leg injury delayed her latest title defense.
“I’m ready to fight anyone, I never pick my opponent. I’m ready for whoever they will put in front of me,” Shevchenko said. “I believe there should be one more fight between Jessica Andrade vs. Lauren Murphy, because Lauren Murphy, she did great to get where she is right now. But the other question, if I want to wait so long? No, I don’t. Me, finally coming back from the injury, waiting for so long, I don’t want to wait so long anymore.”
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