The Muay Thai specialist became a victim of circumstance on Saturday morning when UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes pulled out of the event just hours before her scheduled rematch against Shevchenko would’ve headlined UFC 213. Nunes cited an ultimately insurmountable battle with sinusitis as the culprit for her decision, but after hearing her rival’s explanation, Shevchenko isn’t buying what Nunes is selling.
“I don’t 100% believe that it’s true,” Shevchenko said Monday on The MMA Hour. “She’s trying to say that this was medical something, like with medicals because of her illness or something like this — because during all this week before the fight, [even] one day before the fight at weigh-ins, or the (open) workouts, everybody saw her in very good health, very aggressive. And even at the weigh-ins, she was saying, ‘I’m ready to give this fight, very good fight and take the victory,’ saying and doing all things aggressive like she did.
“Then after weigh-ins, the day of the fight, she [pulls] out, she says, ‘okay, I was feeling bad all week.’ But at the same time she was saying, every time, that she was feeling very strong and prepared for the fight.”
Shevchenko’s sentiment that Nunes’ decision was not purely medical-based was echoed by UFC president Dana White, who at UFC 213’s post-fight press conference said he believed Nunes’ withdrawal was “90 percent mental and maybe 10 percent physical.” White said Nunes was medically cleared to fight and that doctors “found nothing wrong with her.”
While Shevchenko won’t go as far to say that nerves got the better of Nunes, she doubts that the champion was truly unfit to fight.
“I don’t know what she has in her mind, but I see what I see,” Shevchenko said. “She turned down the fight in the very, very last minute, and before the fight she was saying that, ‘I’m ready, I’m feeling good, I’m feeling strong,’ and everybody could see that she was feeling strong, she was feeling aggressive, she was acting in that way in our staredowns before the fight, at the weigh-ins, at the workouts. She was feeling totally healthy.”
In a statement released after UFC 213, Nunes said that doctors cleared her to compete only by checking her “blood and dehydration” levels, and that she was referred to a specialist and prescribed antibiotics after a CT scan discovered a “build up” in a subsequent hospital visit. Nunes’ coach at American Top Team, Conan Silveira, defended Nunes’ decision and bristled at the notion that there were other reasons for her withdrawal, telling MMA Fighting that “critics and dumb people get together and form an opinion that doesn’t exist.
“Even fighters (were) saying she was scared,” Silveira said. “Amanda is not scared of anyone. She retired Miesha Tate, she retired Ronda Rousey. Not to mention that she already beat Valentina by unanimous decision. How did she become scared now? Know the facts before you have your opinion.”
For now, the rematch between Nunes and Shevchenko is tentatively expected to be rebooked for Sept. 9 at UFC 215 in Edmonton, Canada. And Shevchenko admitted Monday that she won’t be surprised if history ends up repeating itself.
“I will not be surprised if the next time the UFC gives another date for the fight, she will turn down the fight at the same moment and do this kind of stuff again,” Shevchenko said. “Because every time I [read about] history, I read about how armies use tactics for winning their battles, and sometimes they are doing the same. Like, they prepare for the fight, their opponents prepare for the fight, then in the right moment they are turning down an opponent.
“They’re expecting to relax their opponent [until] an unexpected time for them to attack and win the fight. And of course, I will not be surprised if she will do the same again the next time and try to relax me and wait until the right moment to say, ‘okay, let’s do the fight,’ feeling that I’m not prepared and try to play with this gameplan. But I want to say, it will not happen with me anytime — and she will try to do it anyway — because I’m training every day. It doesn’t matter if I have a fight or don’t have fight, I train at every time and I will be prepared for every time.”
Shevchenko also confirmed that she was paid a portion of her expected purse at UFC 213 despite not getting the chance to compete, although that didn’t change the empty feeling she left with after a disappointing weekend.
“Usually after the fight, when the fight is over, you feel free,” Shevchenko said. “But this time, I did not feel free, and still, my goal and my mission is not complete. That’s why, for now, my mental situation, my mental condition, I am still in the same fight mode. And okay, it will be a little bit longer than I expected, but I am professional and I take it right now very cold, and I know exactly if I will put too much emotions in my mind, in my head, it will not work.
“For me, that’s why I am just waiting for my time. I will do the same, prepare the same with the same desire to put on my best performance for this fight, and I will do my work, I will do everything to win the fight for the next time.
“I hope that she will complete her part, too, and she will not turn down next time too.”