Valentina Shevchenko’s one-sided victory over Joanna Jedrzejczyk on Saturday night at UFC 231 marked the first time the Eastern European duo crossed paths in an MMA cage. But they also competed three times in the kickboxing ring, with Shevchenko winning on all three occasions.
In a team sports championship, four straight wins makes for a series sweep, so you can certainly understand why this would translate on an individual level as well.
And while she’s not ruling things out entirely, the newly crowned UFC flyweight titleholder doesn’t see herself fighting Jedrzejczyk any time soon, if ever.
“For now, we have so many opponents to fight with,” Shevchenko said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour with Luke Thomas. “For me, I have much more goals for defending the title, and Joanna, she has more business in strawweight, so I think for now we are good to go and move forward.”
Of course, Saturday’s bout for the vacant belt was put together in part because there aren’t a ton of marquee names at 125 pounds, so Jedrzejczyk was recruited up from strawweight. Shevchenko’s win leads to the natural question of who’s next. Some are vouching for Jessica Eye, who is 3-0 in the division. Others note Liz Carmouche handed Shevchenko the only stoppage loss of her MMA career a few years back. And inaugural champ Nicco Montaño is still in the picture.
But Shevchenko says it doesn’t matter to her, she’ll compete against whomever emerges.
“I don’t know,” Shevchenko said when asked who she’s like for her first title defense. “Just go and I will fight you. I tell everyone, I am real fighter I will fight everyone doesn’t matter who and it doesn’t matter where. I’m ready.”
But then, let’s give the new champion some time to enjoy her handiwork in winning the championship before we put her right back in competition.
Shevchenko’s coronation came after a year and a half of close calls and fight fallouts and stops and starts. For her part, she says that through it all she never lost faith that the moment which went down at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena would come to pass. If anything, it only strengthened her self-belief.
“I never was frustrated,” Shevchenko said. “I never was in doubt I never was broken or something like this. I am very strong person. I have strong character. if something doesn’t go my way? Okay, I will wait, I will prepare better, I will come back and take what is mine.”
That’s precisely what Shevchenko did, as she masterfully engaged her longtime foe. While competing in an MMA fight at 125 pounds was a new wrinkle in their rivalry, she doesn’t believe it made much of a difference.
“I know Joanna, she is a very strong athlete,” Shevchenko said. “She is a very strong fighter, she does her takedown defense very good because for every fight we see before she was doing it doing it with success I felt like for my part I didn’t want to lose more power just holding her when I can use it like striking or using my power for striking for for kicking or whatever. Of course if I go by some kind of scenario when the limits change I just change my game plan for this moment.”
When all was said and done, becoming world champion was everything Shevchenko imagined it would be, enough to justify all the hassles involved in getting there.
“This win is meaning for me so much,” Shevchenko said. “All the years I was in martial arts and now competing for the best organization of mixed martial arts in the world and win the belt it’s meant for me to be on the top and this is where I wanted to be all the time, and this is what my goal for the last couple of years and here I am and for me it was just the beginning.”