It’s been nearly 10 years since Valentina Shevchenko last stood across the cage from Liz Carmouche, but the memory of their first fight definitely doesn’t escape her.
As the reigning UFC flyweight champion prepares for their rematch on Saturday in Montevideo, Uruguay, Shevchenko looked back at their initial meeting in 2010, which was a much different time in her career.
She was coming off of a four-year absence from MMA after focusing on her Muay Thai career and at the time Shevchenko wasn’t nearly as meticulous in her fight preparation in those days.
“That fight was almost 10 years ago. That time, it’s not like now for example when you get an opportunity to fight someone, you study them, you prepare, you have all the time in the world. At this time, it was like someone calls you and they say ‘we have this fight over here, would you like to fight next week?’ Yes, I agree let’s do it,” Shevchenko said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “You’re not asking who is your opponent.
“You’re just asking what weight class and that’s all you need. Not even the location, not the city, nothing. You are just ready to fight.”
Carmouche was still very young in her career as well when she faced Shevchenko at a card that took place in Concho, Oklahoma.
According to Shevchenko, the fight was actually playing out in her favor until she got clipped by an upkick courtesy of Carmouche that ultimately led to a doctor’s stoppage after the second round.
“I remember things not going as planned as they should because I was dominating that fight. I was successful with my striking. I took her down and I wanted to make a leg lock and at this moment we went to the ground and we started to wrestle a little bit on the ground and then I saw the blood,” Shevchenko explained. “I didn’t realize whose blood it was because there was no hit or anything like this. By the end of the round when the round was finished, the doctor came out and they decided to stop the fight.
“I did not agree with this decision, I was ready to continue but they decided to stop it because of the cut, a cut over my eyebrow. Sometime when I was on top and she was on the ground, she struck with her leg and her heel landed right on my eyebrow. So it was some kind of situation where anything can happen but it was not some hard punch or anything, it was just the situation [we were in].”
As easy as it would be for Shevchenko to brush off that defeat and almost pretend like it didn’t really happen due to the doctor’s stoppage—not to mention it happened nearly a decade ago—she refuses to take away Carmouche’s accomplishment.
On that night, Carmouche got the nod and Shevchenko won’t discount either of their performances that night even if it really plays no factor going into the rematch.
“My view of this fight because of what’s happened already, you can’t discharge it or say it never happened because it happened,” Shevchenko said. “I took my lessons from this situation. Everything that happened with me made me stronger.
“This is my chance to move forward. For me, it’s my title defense and I will be ready at 100 percent as always because the main thing for me is to win the fight, defend the belt and move forward.”
Since moving to 125 pounds, Shevchenko has been one of the most dominant fighters on the entire UFC roster. She routed former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk to win the flyweight belt and then uncorked a highlight reel head kick knockout to finish Jessica Eye in her first title defense.
The way Shevchenko improves upon her first fight against Carmouche is by going out and having a similarly lopsided performance on Saturday to prove once again she is the best flyweight on the planet.
“This is my goal. That’s why I’m training harder than anyone. This is my goal to be better with each fight, with each single action,” Shevchenko said. “Yes, she has her best fights and it’s good for me because every time I want to fight with the best version of my opponent. With the strongest form, with the strongest mindset, this is from where I will take my victory.
“I don’t look for easy opponents. I just want to fight with strong, strong female MMA athletes.”