The silence coming from UFC women’s flyweight champion Nicco Montano has been noticeable since Valentina Shevchenko made a definitive, gruesome announcement of her 125-pound contendership with a bloody win over Priscila Cachoeira at UFC Belem.
Montano has not acknowledged Shevchenko on social media or in the press since “The Bullet” dispatched Cachoeira in ruthless fashion at UFC Belem then called out the underdog TUF 26 winner in hopes of being Montano’s first title defense. And while Shevchenko has yet to hear an official word from either Montano or the UFC, the former bantamweight title challenger firmly believes her shot at the flyweight strap is the only logical step in the newly-created women’s 125-pound division.
“Let’s see how she will act, because no one has heard [anything] about her, she’s not saying [anything] until now,” Shevchenko said recently on The MMA Hour when asked about Montano. “Let’s see how she responds. But my opinion, if she is holding the belt, she has to defend it. She cannot just escape, and she cannot just find another reason to not fight or fight with another opponent. She cannot do it now. She cannot say that I could not make 125.
“I did fight at 125. I did my job. I did everything. So she just doesn’t have a reason to decline the fight.”
In December, Montano surprised many by stating that she was targeting fellow TUF 26 finalist Sijara Eubanks as her first title defense, and not Shechenko.
Eubanks lost her initial title shot against Montano after suffering complications with her weight cut the day before the season’s finale. Montano reasoned that Eubanks was the most deserving of a second chance because Shechenko and other established UFC contenders had to “show what they can do at ‘25 before getting a chance to fight for a title.”
But now those concerns should be resolved, Shevchenko figures, especially considering the ease with which the 29-year-old Kyrgyzstan native made the 125-pound limit.
“It was totally easy,” Shevchenko said. “I didn’t suffer at all, because with my training camp, I did a little bit of dieting, a little bit of food discipline, and I already was 130 (pounds). For the last day of the weight cut, I had just five pounds, six pounds to cut, and I think it’s totally nothing if compared with the 10-15 pounds that usually fighters cut in the last day. That’s why I was feeling good. I was feeling totally great.
“I never cut for 135, because 135, it’s my normal walk weight. And 125, I just feel like it’s my weight class. It’s very natural for me and I feel in there very comfortable, as strong as I was at 135, but double [as fast].”
To make matters more impressive, Shevchenko’s debut cut down to 125 pounds went smoothly despite the fact that issues with a lack of hot water in the host hotel in Belem caused several fighters to struggle badly with their weight cuts.
“It affected me in the plan, changing our plans, because I was expecting to do one kind of routine for my weight cutting on the day of the weigh-in,” Shevchenko acknowledged. “But when I figured out that there was no hot water and it would take a few hours to fix it, maybe more, I just realized that I don’t want to just wait and lose my time, and I just put on my sauna suit and went to do my regular training. And it was easy for me because I didn’t (get) tired. Just a little bit change of plans.”
Prior to her drop to 125 pounds, Shevchenko was already considered by many within the sport to be the uncrowned queen of the flyweight division. She captured wins over top bantamweights Holly Holm and Julianna Pena despite her smaller size, and nearly claimed the 135-pound title in a razor-thin split decision loss to UFC champion Amanda Nunes at UFC 215. Shevchenko subsequently proved the chatter surrounding her was justified with a thunderous victory over Cachoeira at UFC Belem, during which Shevchenko won the striking battle by a terrifying margin of 230-3.
So when asked if she thought the comparatively inexperienced Montano was a fighter on her same level, Shevchenko was blunt in her response.
It doesn’t matter.
“She’s holding the belt,” Shevchenko said. “This is everything.”