Valentina Shevchenko has never handpicked her opposition as flyweight champion but even she got excited when the UFC called to offer her Jessica Andrade as her next title challenger.
Not only is the Brazilian a former UFC champion in her own right but she brings a march forward, aggressive style that usually results in a crowd-pleasing affair every time she competes. That kind of relentless pressure combined with blistering power has likely intimidated some of Andrade’s past opponents but don’t count Shevchenko among them.
“I really like this kind of opponent,” Shevchenko said when speaking to MMA Fighting.
Expanding on that statement, the reigning and defending queen at 125 pounds sees Andrade as perfect stylistic matchup based on her own powerful striking game where she feasts on opponents who are willing to engage with her.
Time and time again, Shevchenko has made a living off fighters crazy enough to stand in front of her because she’s spent much of her martial arts career perfecting pinpoint accuracy blended with fight ending power. Thanks to Andrade constantly moving forward and stalking her opponents around the octagon, Shevchenko knows she just needs to aim and fire on Saturday night.
“I like that type of opponent when they are running into you like ‘I am here!’” Shevchenko said with a smile. “I really like this style of challengers. It gets me very excited. Because I have a more clear target. I don’t have to look for a clean spot, it’s just running towards me.
“I’m going to be ready. I know she’s strong. She’s going to be powerful. She’s going to try to strike wild [with] punches and I have to be ready for this. I will be.”
Shevchenko has never discounted any of her opponents in the UFC even at moments when she’s set foot in the cage as a massive favorite according to odds makers.
This time around, she’s still favored to win but Andrade commands a little more respect thanks to her wealth of experience not to mention a slew of high profile wins on her resume.
Andrade earned this opportunity through a career spent sawing her way through the competition with the kind of strength that’s virtually unmatched in any of the women’s divisions.
Shevchenko respects that Andrade possesses fight-ending power, but she also knows it’s going to take a lot more than that to see the title change hands at UFC 261 this weekend.
“Obviously, she has physical power and she’s thinking that she can wrestle with everyone. That she has enough power for everyone,” Shevchenko explained. “But beside of power, I cannot see different things because some fighters they have power and technique and high IQ for the fight. But Jessica, her strongest side is her physical power, what I see from her. Of course, it’s a big difference if she’s fighting with someone who doesn’t have enough power against a lot of power but when you have in your opponent the same power maybe more, you have to have something else. You have to have something more.
“I know what to expect from her. But this is not something new. Not something dangerous or something that you have to fear or something else. It’s pretty understandable her fight game.”
Considering the way Shevchenko has run roughshod over the flyweight division since becoming champion, it’s understandable why there’s so much anticipation surrounding the showdown with Andrade.
While she’s excited in her own way, Shevchenko refuses to look at any opponent as something greater or more significant than another. Part of the reason she’s been such a dominant champion is thanks to the way Shevchenko treats every fighter as just another body standing across the cage from her.
“I don’t feel that kind of difference because I’m realistic and I know what to expect from the fight,” Shevchenko said. “If I’m going to put [myself] in all this excitement and all these feelings before the fight, it would probably blind me and I wouldn’t do the things I need to do before the fight. It doesn’t matter what name is in front of me, I just try to focus on the real things like the characteristics of the fighter. Study the good sides, the bad sides of my opponents and try to take it with a cool vision. Just get ready for all excitement.
“These feelings like it’s going to be a better fight, a better selling fight but no, fight is a fight. It’s dangerous. It doesn’t matter who’s in front of you. It just matters how you take it mentally. I expect from any fight a great fight. That’s why I prepare myself in the best way I can. This what I do every time.”
Beyond her title bout with Andrade at UFC 261, Shevchenko will also inevitably face questions about potential fights in the future but don’t expect her answers to change from what she’s already said in the past.
Someone will surely ask about strawweight champion Zhang Weili possibly moving to flyweight or an eventual trilogy with two-division champion Amanda Nunes, but much like her approach to treating every opponent as a blank face staring back at her, Shevchenko always does the same when asked about what comes next.
“Whoever else. I don’t care too much,” Shevchenko said. “For me, I see the face, I see the name, I start to prepare. My goal is to get there, to win and then past one step more, one obstacle more and then move forward.”