There’s nothing funny about what happened to the women’s flyweight championship fight at UFC 228, but Valentina Shevchenko is finding something to laugh about in the aftermath of what was supposed to be her shot at the belt.
The morning of last Friday’s weigh-ins, it was reported that Shevchenko’s opponent Nicco Montano had been taken to the hospital, an unfortunate occurrence that would eventually lead to their co-main event bout in Dallas being canceled and Montano being stripped of the title that she earned by winning season 26 of The Ultimate Fighter.
Shevchenko and Montano both released statements afterwards, with Shevchenko accusing Montano of finding a way to “escape from the fight”, and Montano responding with her own criticisms of Shevchenko and the UFC for how the promotion handled the situation. During an appearance on The MMA Hour on Monday, Shevchenko was read a section of Montano’s statement in which Montano called her an “egomaniac”, “disrespectful”, “obsessed”, and “jealous”, among other things.
As the statement was being read, Shevchenko began to laugh and then she repeated her stance on the weight-cutting problems that led to Montano being removed from Saturday’s card.
“It makes me laugh so hard. It’s the most funny post I’ve ever heard in all my life,” Shevchenko said. “Now she has all the time to speak, so now she can post everything that she wants, everything that she wants to create, like to invent everything, but her actions show the same.
“She had enough time to prepare for the fight. She was the only one who was responsible for the weight cut. She knows her body, how it reacts, and she has to be able to make it earlier, to start her weight cut. Not coming for the fight week 20 pounds over. It’s crazy, even for the boys — they’re cutting much more than girls — it’s crazy to come 20 pounds over for the fight week. You have to start your diet earlier and be professional. You have to be responsible about what you have in your hands. But this is total irresponsibility, total unprofessional things from her.”
Shevchenko believes that Montano is blaming everyone but herself for what happened, and that she got “what she deserved.” It’s been a less-than-stellar nine months for Montano who has struggled to maintain the career momentum gained from becoming the UFC’s first female champion at 125 pounds. She had to deal with a foot injury after winning a five-round unanimous decision over Roxanne Modafferi in December, then later underwent dental surgery that further prolonged her return to action.
Montano claimed in her statement that she was pressured into fighting at UFC 228 and would have preferred to compete later this year.
In the meantime, Shevchenko made a successful drop down from the women’s bantamweight division with a one-sided beatdown of Priscila Cachoeira in February. Since then, she says she’d been waiting for Montano to sign a contract and that it was Montano dictating the terms, not Shevchenko or the UFC, and that Montano did not previously have any issue with fighting in September.
“When we just started to speak about possible fights, first that came from their training camp, her team, that she maybe will be ready for the fight in May, early June,” Shevchenko said. “Then the UFC sent me a contract for July 28 and I signed my part and we were waiting for when she will sign it, and she was the first one who started speaking about July 7. Having this contract for July 28, she started speaking about fighting on International Fight Week.
“She is the one who offered this September date and I said okay, September? You want September? Let’s do September. I was waiting for so many months, I can wait one month more. So this is how it really happened.”
It’s unclear when Montano will be fit to return to action, so Shevchenko joked that the former champion now has more time to talk and work on Instagram posts. She implied that the pressure of being champion may have been too much for Montano and that if that is the case, she should step aside to give an opportunity to other fighters.
“Why was she signed for the UFC? To fight. To make fights happen. To be responsible. To be healthy for the fight. To do her main job,” Shevchenko said. “Did she do it? No. Did she do her main job? Did she fight with me? No. She didn’t do it. So what was she now talking about?”
“If you are not able to hold this responsibility and hold this pressure, you have to step out and [leave the job] that fighters have to do to the people who are ready to do it. Who are ready to fight and want to fight. Action is action. Speaking is speaking. When you are speaking, it’s okay, but her actions, you have to follow. Follow your words if you want to show that you’re a real fighter.”