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Valentina Shevchenko doesn’t care if Katlyn Chookagian is a boring fighter: ‘My goal is to destroy everything that she has’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Valentina Shevchenko only has one objective in mind at UFC 247 and it’s not worrying about whether or not Katlyn Chookagian will help her engage in a “Fight of the Night.”

While the reigning women’s flyweight champion has had several jaw-dropping performances inside the Octagon — including her vicious head kick knockout against Jessica Eye last year — the same can’t be said for Chookagian.

The New Jersey-based contender has gone 6-2 in the UFC with all eight fights going to decision including three split decisions across two divisions.

With a 4-1 resume at 125 pounds, it’s awfully hard to deny that Chookagian has earned her position as the next title challenger. But she’s also received a mountain of criticism for her volume striking attack that rarely results in crowd-pleasing slugfests.

None of that matters much to Shevchenko, who only cares about beating Chookagian to defend her flyweight title for the third consecutive time.

“I never judge a fighter about them being exciting or something else,” Shevchenko told MMA Fighting. “I have my opponent and I study her style. I study her technique. I study her traps that could be in her game for me. When I look at her, this is my No. 1 priority. This is what I study about her. I think she is in the rankings where she has to be. She did all the necessary work to get this title opportunity.

“Her style, it’s different, not probably so aggressive or whatever people will say but it works for her. My goal is to destroy everything that she has.”

The same could be said when it comes to her own approach to strategy when seeking the win against Chookagian this weekend.

Shevchenko has put on some thrilling performances during her career but she’s also had to edge out decisions when that was the only way to win the fight.

In a perfect world, the 31-year-old UFC champion would leave every opponent unconscious in the center of the Octagon but there’s simply no way to will that result into existence.

“You have to be prepared for anything,” Shevchenko explained. “To see this opportunity during the fight and when this opportunity shows up, this is the time for a knockout. This is the time for a submission so you take it. But it would be so crazy and I don’t think it would be very clever to just run into your opponent only because someone wants to see the knockout or whatever. It would be totally not right.

“You have to manage the distance. You have to work your style. You have to be yourself and when the opportunity shows up, you take it.”

Maybe Chookagian isn’t the most dangerous opponent to ever threaten Shevchenko’s title reign but she’s treating this like it’s the hardest fight of her life.

The odds might say that Shevchenko is overwhelmingly expected to win — she’s as high as high as a 14-to-1 favorite according to some sportsbooks — but just like the accolades she receives after every fight, none of that matters once she’s inside the cage.

A huge part of Shevchenko’s success has boiled down to her ability to graciously accept praise immediately after a performance and then put it all behind her to stay focused on the next task at hand.

“To be where I am right now, I have to work harder than everyone,” Shevchenko said. “To stay in the same position, I have to forget about everything before. Because for me, every time I won the fight, everything is fine, I have one week for a celebration. Going into the next training camp, I forget everything.

“I forget everything that was before and I start from the very same person as I was before. I think this is the No. 1 key. To focus yourself every time. If you starting to believe in all the words, what’s going on outside, you start accept it inside. It starts to work against you. It starts to ruin you as a fighter. You have to work. Every time you have to make new obstacles to make you work. It’s never easy. This is what my mind says. This is how I look on things.”