Antonina Shevchenko was on a plane from Madrid by way of Stockholm feeling pretty good back in May. She had just won her eighth Muay Thai world title and was heading home to Peru with a gold medal.
When she arrived in Lima, though, her emotions quickly changed. One of her training partners met her at the airport and told her something frightening: her coach Pavel Fedotov was shot at a restaurant by burglars while he was having dinner with her sister Valentina.
"When I [heard] it, I couldn't believe it, that it just happened," Shevchenko said. "I went right to the hospital with all my things, all my bags. I went right to the hospital to make sure that Pavel was OK, because I didn't know all the news. I only knew that it was something in the restaurant, it was an exchange in shots and Pavel got shot. I didn't know what happened exactly."
When she arrived there, Shevchenko found that Fedotov was not seriously injured. But there was still a lot unknown, especially about if he'd recover in time to help with the training camps of the sisters he has coached since they were children. Fedotov is a father figure to the Shevchenkos, training them for the last two decades and moving from Kyrgyzstan to Peru with them eight years ago.
Antonina, 31, didn't have Fedotov with her in Sweden for the Muay Thai world championships. He was back in Peru helping Valentina get ready for her fight with Holly Holm at UFC on FOX 20 on July 23 in Chicago. Being without him there was difficult, Antonina said, even though her mother, also a lifelong martial artist, was helping her.
"It was hard, because I need to think by myself about everything," Antonina said. "With Pavel, he's thinking about everything and I'm thinking about performing what he wants me to perform.
"It's very important for me, because with him I feel like easy and quiet. I just do what he wants me to do. This whole training process, he's building and pushing me. For me, it's much easier."
Luckily for Fedotov and the Shevchenkos, the coach is on the mend. So much so that he's been back in the gym with them every day, now in Texas. He's expected to be in Antonina's corner Friday night when she makes her Lion Fight debut against Annabelle Gely at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut.
It has been an incredible — and fast — recovery. Fedotov was shot and Valentina was caught in the crossfire May 29.
"It's great that nothing serious happened, because it's a very shocking situation for us," Antonina said. "It's very good that he's recovered to be with him in training and going with us to our fights. I really appreciate him with all his support and help he's doing for us."
Antonina is breaking into the American combat sports scene via Lion Fight, much like Valentina did. Antonina, who is three years older than her sister, is not sure about MMA in the future, though. Right now, she's just concentrating on Muay Thai.
"For now, I will be doing just my Muay Thai career," Antonina said. "But in MMA, in wrestling, in grappling I train. I train with Valentina. Not as much as she trains, but for competing I just focus now on Muay Thai."
Most importantly, with Fedotov in her corner. That seemed not too long ago like it would not happen
"Very scary," Antonina said. "When I remember now, it's like very scary. But everything is OK now. It's good."