Former UFC strawweight champion Jessica Andrade feels “strong, fast, and happy” as a flyweight — and not too far off from another shot at the UFC championship despite her recent stoppage defeat to Valentina Shevchenko.
Shevchenko defends her belt in UFC 266’s co-main event against Lauren Murphy.
“Beating Cynthia Calvillo and really doing the right fights, I believe the path will be shorter to fight for the belt,” Andrade told MMA Fighting. “Fighting a top-3 [opponent] or top-4 after beating Cynthia, someone that’s about to fight for the belt as well, I believe the UFC will give me a rematch with Valentina.”
Andrade has fought twice as a flyweight, first stopping Katlyn Chookagian inside one round before losing to Shevchenko. “Bate Estaca” started her UFC career as a bantamweight, but found her most success in the strawweight division, where she won the UFC title in violent fashion with a second-round knockout over Rose Namajunas.
“The good thing about this division is that it has good names but it’s not like 115,” Andrade said, “where you have great names that have you like, ‘My God, I’ll have to go past this one, and then that one, and then that one, to maybe fight for the belt.’ I think the opportunity to fight more times for the belt at 125 is easier.”
Gilliard Parana, Andrade’s longtime coach at PRVT, believes the “ideal world” for the Brazilian would be to compete at 115 pounds, but Andrade says being a flyweight means “less suffering” with her weight cut, especially now that she’s living full-time in Las Vegas and working with the UFC Performance Institute.
“I’ve been asking for [fights at strawweight] but I think they’re enjoying seeing me at 125,” she said. “So far I haven’t gotten the possibility of fighting at 115 again, so I’ll just stay at 125. Who knows, maybe they’ll offer me something at 135 along the way. I’m in Vegas now so everything is easier.”
Andrade’s championship plans depend on her performance against Calvillo, who enters UFC 266 off of a decision defeat to Chookagian in November 2020. Calvillo went 5-1-1 in the strawweight class before moving up to flyweight and going 1-1 against Jessica Eye and Chookagian.
Calvillo has never been finished in an MMA bout before, but “Bate Estaca” plans to change that when they meet inside the T-Mobile Arena.
“Based on my training here, I believe I’ll be able to win by knockout,” Andrade said. “I hope it’s in the first round, but either way I really want to get a knockout. I see this fight ending by knockout or something like that.”