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UFC 196 notebook: Valentina Shevchenko says she’s here ‘not to have fun,’ but to win

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LAS VEGAS -- Some fighters enjoy fighting. It's a good time. They're in MMA, because they like to fight.

Not Valentina Shevchenko. The only thing "fun" about it to her is the winning part of it.

"What's important to me is every victory," Shevchenko told MMA Fighting on Thursday at UFC 196 media day. "Martial arts is my life. I'm here not to have fun. Fight for me is victory. It's all that I want."

Shevchenko (12-1) will face Amanda Nunes here Saturday at MGM Grand. She only has one previous UFC fight, a win over Sarah Kaufman, and she's already knocking on the door of a women's bantamweight title fight. If she beats Nunes, there probably isn't another person in the division who would deserve it more.

Not that the Kyrgyzstan native is thinking that far ahead. Nunes is a very tough opponent and looking ahead just would not be in Shevchenko's character.

"I hope this," she said of earning a title shot. "Sure, it would be so great to fight for the title. But for me, it's more important to win this fight."

Shevchenko, 27, filled in on short notice against Kaufman in December and is making a quick turnaround in this fight. That's the way she likes it. Shevchenko is always moving. She grew up in Kyrgyzstani, moved to Peru about a decade ago and now trains some of the time in Houston. For this camp, Shevchenko and her sister Antonina, both Muay Thai champions, trained in Thailand.

Holly Holm will defend her women's bantamweight title against Miesha Tate in the co-main event Saturday. Shevchenko will be watching, but not because she's thinking about a fight with Holm. People call Holm the best striker in the division and maybe she is. But Shevchenko has a case as a multi-time Muay Thai and kickboxing world champion. She owns three Muay Thai victories over UFC women's strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

"I don't care who is the better striker," Shevchenko said. "It doesn't matter. It's win the fight. That's it."

Time to shine

Chris Weidman took all of his opportunities and ran with them. He got a chance to fight arguably the greatest MMA fighter of all time in Anderson Silva and knocked him out three years ago.

In Weidman's mind, his close friend and teammate Gian Villante has a massive opportunity of his own Saturday against Ilir Latifi. Villante will be fighting right before the headliners go out there, which means maximum exposure on pay-per-view for what will likely be one of the biggest fights of the year.

"He's in an amazing spot, so he can really make a statement," said Weidman, the former middleweight champ. "It's a huge opportunity for him. He doesn't get that, but it is. It's huge. He's gonna have so many eyeballs on him."

Villante (14-6) has won three of four and is coming off a first-round knockout of Anthony Perosh in November. The Long Islander has shown flashes of mega potential. Weidman believes now is the time to put it all together.

"He's athletic, he's strong," Weidman said. "He has the tools that he needs to be one of the best fighters in the world, to be the champion. It's all about putting them together. That's what he's gotta do."

Wanted: Opponents

Amanda Nunes might have been in line for a title shot already, according to her coach Mike Brown -- if only some people wanted to step up and fight her.

Brown, who coaches Nunes at American Top Team, said it has been a struggle trying to find foes for the Brazilian knockout artist. She'll, of course, meet Shevchenko on Saturday night.

"Nobody wants to fight her," Brown said. "She's had so many fighters turn her down. She can't get a fight."

Brown doesn't think anyone will be able to deny Nunes if she beats Shevchenko. It'll be title shot or bust. Nunes (11-4) has won four of five with all four of those victories coming by finish.

"It's all about getting the shot," Nunes said. "Sometimes you're pushed out of the way, it's political. Without a doubt, she can beat anybody in that weight class, Ronda [Rousey] or Holly [Holm] included. All she needs to do is do it and I think she'll come out on top."

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