As soon as the UFC’s flyweight division was established, Valentina Shevchenko was predicted to rise to prominence within the bracket.
A decorated Muay Thai world champion, Shevchenko had little or no weight cut when she competed at bantamweight. Two decision losses to champion Amanda Nunes account for the only defeats she has suffered during her UFC tenure.
“Bullet” makes her flyweight debut at UFC Fight Night 125 in Belem and despite the expectation that’s on her shoulders, the Kyrgyz is ready to rise to the occasion.
“Not at all, because I know exactly my job,” Shevchenko told MMA Fighting when asked if she felt pressure from the public’s hopes for her at flyweight.
“I must go to into this fight and win this fight. This is what I want. I’m very happy that I will have my first fight in the new 125 division. I’ve put all my focus on it and I’ve prepared as best as I can. I’m just waiting for Saturday to show the best that I have.”
Shevchenko wowed the masses with some of her performances at bantamweight, but she feels she is better suited to perform at the lighter category without the stress of dealing with bigger opponents.
“I consider 125 my weight division, it’s very comfortable. Even thought I felt very good fighting at 135, I just feel that 125 is my real weight class because the opponents will be the same size as me,” Shevchenko explained.
“Everything is different when you’re fighting a larger person. It’s harder to measure distance and you have to constantly think about the larger opponent — larger arms and longer legs — you must consider all of those things in your preparation.
“This time at 125 I know I’ll fight with someone the same size as me. This makes me very excited because I’ll be able to showcase all of the technique that I have without thinking it will be as dangerous.”
Undefeated debutant Priscila Cachoeira may have home advantage on Brazilian soil, but Shevchenko is confident that her experience and technique will of great benefit to her.
“She’s unbeaten with eight wins and zero losses. She has very strong hands and she’s a little bit taller than me. A good thing for her is that the MMA gloves are so small, but I have all of this experience; I have nearly 20 years of experience in martial arts because I started when I was five years old,” she said.
“I feel like that’s my biggest advantage. I know exactly what I have to do and what I feel like for this fight. There are no easy fights, so I have prepared myself for a tough battle.”
With a dominant performance, Shevchenko believes she can challenge for the title following victory in Belem.
“I really hope so. My line of thought is that I’m a fighter and I’m ready to fight everyone. If people think that I’m ready for the title shot after my first fight at 125 then I’m ready to do it.”
Although she recognizes TUF winner Nicco Montano as the current champion, she questioned how long she can hold onto her title for.
“She has the belt and that makes her the champion, it’s very simple. She might be the champion, but we don’t know how long she will be champion for. We don’t know how long she can keep it. It’s just a question of time,” she said.