Valentina Shevchenko can rarely escape an interview or press conference without hearing Amanda Nunes’ name.
Considering she pushed the reigning featherweight and bantamweight champion to the brink in a pair of past fights, it’s understandable why there’s such interest in a trilogy between them. Since going to a split decision with Shevchenko back in 2017, Nunes has demolished her competition with six consecutive wins including knockouts over former champions Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm.
Shevchenko has done much the same with Nunes counting as the only two losses in her UFC career and she’s been absolutely dominant since dropping down to featherweight where she currently boasts a 7-0 record with six wins in title fights.
At UFC 261, Shevchenko yet again tightened her grip over the flyweight division when she dispatched former champion Jessica Andrade inside two rounds.
While she’s not in any kind of rush, Shevchenko feels like eventually she’s going to have to cross paths with Nunes again if for no other reason than they have eliminated all of the competition in their respective divisions.
“I just feel it’s going to happen,” Shevchenko told MMA Fighting following her win at UFC 261. “Without putting all this pressure to someone, Ok, let’s do it now. It’s like everything good in a good time. That’s why it’s going to happen, I know for sure. Probably when time is perfect time for this fight. It’s going to happen. It’s like I cannot force someone like OK, let’s go fight me. If someone don’t want to fight, to have this fight, no one can force no one.
“Why I’m feeling like I’m not rushing or doing much of this stuff, I just feel it’s going to happen without extra power. Because as I say every time, if we continue successfully in our own weight class divisions, it’s going to be just only one fight that makes sense.”
The appeal for a third fight between Shevchenko and Nunes is easy to understand beyond the competitive nature of their two previous meetings.
A quick look at the women’s pound-for-pound rankings in the UFC shows Nunes and Shevchenko back-to-back at No. 1 and No. 2. It’s tough to imagine either one of them sliding out of those spots without losing, which means the UFC would also have an easy sell if booking a trilogy in the future.
That said, Shevchenko admits the mythical pound-for-pound rankings don’t matter much to her because she’s already seen the fickle way names have moved around on that list in the past, which is why it’s the least of her concerns when it comes to her career.
“Really, I don’t care,” Shevchenko said. “I only care about my title defense and do things with what I do with my heart and all sincere motivations and everything that I have to do to lead my martial art life. This is really for me is what’s important.
“I’m not believing too much in pound-for-pound rankings because at a time when [Zhang] Weili was in front of me, it’s already showing it doesn’t make any sense. So it’s kind of like OK, be there for a while until your next fight, Ok, I’m good. I’m easy with that list.”
Following Shevchenko’s win over Andrade in Jacksonville, Fla., UFC president Dana White shot down booking the trilogy with Nunes unless both fighters showed interest in making that fight happen again.
Nunes has also flirted with retirement in the past, although she’s seemingly moved beyond those talks while defending titles at both 135 and 145 pounds in recent years. She’s already got her next fight booked as she faces off with Julianna Pena later this year.
Because nothing is certain until both fighters are actually standing in the octagon, there’s still a chance that Shevchenko could go the rest of her career and never face Nunes again.
She obviously understands that possibility but Shevchenko can’t say how she’d handle that situation because it hasn’t happened yet so there’s no reason to spent much time thinking about it.
“It’s very hard to answer this question because I have to go there with 10, 11 title defenses and feel what I’m going to feel there,” Shevchenko said when asked if she would be satisfied with her career ending without ever clashing with Nunes again. “It’s very hard to tell what I’m going to feel in the future without knowing what you’re really going to feel.
“It’s kind of like guessing, like OK, maybe that, maybe that but no one can know for sure. No one can know for sure what’s going to happen in the future.”