Valentina Shevchenko is finally set to begin her flyweight title reign.
After capturing the vacant UFC strap with a one-sided rout of Joanna Jedrzejczyk in December, Shevchenko is slated to make the first defense of her belt on June 8 at Chicago’s United Center when she meets veteran challenger Jessica Eye at UFC 238.
Eye is a longtime advocate of the women’s flyweight division who has racked up a 3-0 record since the UFC introduced the weight class to its ranks in 2017, culminating in a hard-fought split decision win over top contender Katlyn Chookagian at UFC 231. That performance earned Eye a shot at Shevchenko — and the reigning 125-pound champion already knows what to expect when her and Eye clash with gold on the line this summer.
“I know for sure she’s going to go forward, as I saw from her fight with Katlyn Chookagian,” Shevchenko said Monday on The MMA Hour. “She was, every time, putting a lot of pressure [on Chookagian]. But you know what I can see more? Maybe she could say that she’s better than me in grappling, maybe she could say she’s better than me in wrestling, in striking, whatever. But it doesn’t matter, because she’s not better than me. She’s not.
“It doesn’t matter for me whatever she will bring. It doesn’t matter at all. ... I will win the fight and that’s it.”
As one could tell, Shevchenko has taken notice of certain criticisms Eye has levied at her in recent months. While Eye has generally been generous with her praise of Shevchenko, the American challenger also recently told reporters that she believes one of Shevchenko’s biggest weaknesses is an inability to be versatile or adjust her gameplan depending on the style of opponent she’s facing. Eye noted her own level of adaptability as one of the chief reasons she will pull off the upset against Shevchenko at UFC 238.
And it’s safe to say that Shevchenko isn’t impressed with Eye’s assessment.
“I think she [doesn’t] know what she’s speaking about,” Shevchenko said. “Because it’s like, not make sense. To lack [the ability to] adjust? It [doesn’t] make sense at all.
“That you have so much technique in your arsenal, you have so much everything [in your arsenal that you can] choose the weapon, what you’re going to use against your opponent — this is what I see. This is, in my mind, the adjustments. That you are not just adjusting because you don’t have the opportunity to do something else. No, you’re just choosing the right weapon against your opponent. And this is what, every time, I am doing.
“If I need to go hard, I can go hard. If I need to wait a little bit, I will wait. If I have to go striking, I will go to strike. If I have to go down, I will go down. So this is my version of adjustments. I have a lot of techniques. I have a lot of everything, to choose what I will [use to] play against you. And this is more dangerous, I can say. You never know what you will face. So this is the thing, what I can explain is an adjustment. But listening to her quote, I really understand she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Maybe she’s saying words, but she doesn’t know what exactly this means.”
Shevchenko, 31, is one of the top pound-for-pound female fighters in the sport. “Bullet” has picked up a litany of high-profile wins in her time in the UFC, besting big names like Jedrzejczyk, Holly Holm, Sarah Kaufman, and Julianna Pena. Her only losses over that span are a pair of narrow defeats at the hands of two-division champion Amanda Nunes.
Shevchenko was widely believed to be the No. 1 flyweight fighter in the world long before the UFC ever brought the 125-pound women’s division to its organization, so the Muay Thai standout knows June 8th will mark the beginning of a long-awaited chapter for her.
And although it’s still undetermined whether or not her fight against Eye will headline UFC 238’s pay-per-view, Shevchenko is approaching the beginning to her title reign with the same steely-eyed cool that carried her to the UFC strap.
“I know the one important thing: It will be my title defense,” Shevchenko said. “This is everything that I want to know. And for now, I’m just keeping my mind fresh and I’m trying to not think too much about the fight. I’ve already started my preparation, but I want to put my mind in this fight mode at the right time in the right place. And it’s not yet there. It’s not yet because for now I have my sister’s fight. Antonina, like I say, she’s going to fight [next] month in St. Petersburg, Russia, against Roxanne Modafferi.
“It’s going to be the first female UFC fight in the history of Russia. And now, all my mind, all my thoughts, it’s about her fight. I’m trying to help her as much as I can in her preparation and to do everything I can to make her successful in her fight.”