The Shevchenko sisters do just about everything together. And that apparently extends to fighting in the same weight class.
Antonina Shevchenko, the older sister of UFC star Valentina, confirmed to Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that she will be fighting at flyweight on an upcoming Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series card. That is, of course, the same division that Valentina fights at now.
Antonina said that she doesn’t expect that she and her sister will be on any kind of collision course. And if it ever came up, she would definitely not fight her sibling.
“I don’t think so,” Antonina said. “Of course, we’ll never fight as sisters. Valentina now is No. 1 contender at flyweight. I’m sure in a few months she will be the champion of this division. If I win this fight in Contender Series, I will be just entering UFC. There will be a hard, long way before you become No. 3, No. 5, No. 1. it’ll be a long way and hard way, so we’ll see.”
Why the choice to fight at 125 when she has fought in other combat sports at 145 and 135? Very simple, Antonina said. It’s the same reason why so many other UFC fighters choose lower divisions — everyone else is doing it.
“They cut weight so much and the girls at 135 they are too big for me,” Antonina said. “It’ll be better for me to fight at 125 in UFC.”
Antonina, 33, will defend her Lion Fight women’s super lightweight title against Claire Baxter at Lion Fight 42 on Saturday night at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn. That could end up being her final Muay Thai bout before concentrating on the UFC. That will depend, she noted, on whether or not she wins her Contender Series bout. Antonina said it will likely be in June, but no official date or opponent has been set yet.
“If it will happen, then yes of course,” Antonina said of giving up Muay Thai and kickboxing. “UFC is a huge, huge organization and has the best fighters in the world of MMA. It’ll be a great challenge for me as a martial artist.”
The UFC would be an easy transition, Antonina said. After all, she has been next to Valentina every step of the way during her UFC career, including her women’s bantamweight title fight against Amanda Nunes from UFC 215 in September.
“For me, it wouldn’t be intimidating, because I did more than 20 years of [martial arts],” Antonina said. “I had professional fights in different countries, in different states than many fighters I have [fought]. But in many ways I know how it is with UFC fights from inside. Every procedure fighters do during fight week is all familiar now to me. For me, it’s just more comfortable, I think.”
The Shevchenko sisters have been training in martial arts since they were 7 years old, under the same coach, Pavel Fedotov, who trains them now. Mixed martial arts is the latest in their evolution. Both are decorated strikers with multiple Muay Thai world championships under their belts.
For Antonina, MMA — and the UFC, in particular — is the pinnacle for all the work she has done for two decades. And that’s where she hopes to be later this year.
“For a martial arts person, I would like to challenge myself in MMA, to develop myself as a martial artist,” she said. “MMA is the most complete fight in all martial arts.”