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Alexa Grasso credits improved UFC run to eliminating extreme weight cut, eyes fight against Valentina Shevchenko

Alexa Grasso didn’t start her UFC career as a flyweight, but she may end up as one of the division’s best when it’s all said and done.

The fast-rising contender recently improved to 3-0 competing at 125 pounds with a first-round submission win over veteran Joanne Wood at UFC Columbus. With the win, Grasso jumped up to the No. 9 spot in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings and could be closing in on a shot at champion Valentina Shevchenko.

Grasso’s current run is a far cry from her initial run at strawweight that saw her alternate wins and losses in six outings and struggle to make the 115-pound limit. Now, not only is Grasso enjoying the lead-up to her fights far more, she also feels that removing the stress of extreme weight cuts has improved her performances.

“I think it helps a lot because all my camp I was at the same weight,” Grasso said on The MMA Hour. “It was not like the last 115 fight because I was big, then I was small, small, small, and then big and bloated with stomach issues and all those things. Now I keep eating all week, I have a weight-cut man that they are feeding me and feeding me and I can eat all day and it feels amazing.

“I think that’s the most important week and it’s not good that you have to put low, low calories and low water. I don’t think that’s good. I’ve seen on myself.”

Though Grasso emerged as a top prospect at 115 pounds after beginning her career with eight consecutive wins, making the strawweight limit eventually became odious. She missed weight by three pounds for a fight with Randa Markos in August 2017, but the worst was yet to come. Grasso saw a January 2020 matchup with one-time UFC title challenger Claudia Gadelha at UFC 246 cancelled when she came in 5.5 pounds over the limit. Shortly after, Grasso announced she would make the move to flyweight.

Grasso recalls that there were clear warning signs ahead of that misfire, though they’re a thing of the past now.

“At the beginning of my career it was not difficult because I had not much muscles, but as I was getting older it started to be difficult,” Grasso said. “When I turned around 25, 26, I felt like my body changed and it changed a lot, so it was pretty difficult by that time. Now I feel good. I feel amazing and this is the third time I do this experiment on myself, that I’m not exposing myself to heat, I’m not using a lot of dehydration, and it feels good.

“I know that I’ve been smaller than my three last opponents, a lot smaller, but I feel so good. I read also that bodies are not meant to be on heat. It’s not good for the head, it’s not good for the heart, the muscles. They are not meant to be on the heat, so I just hope that this can help a lot of girls that are starting or that are already having issues with their cuts. Sometimes, if you change your division, it’s good, and this sport is evolving and I hope that all girls can do something to be healthier and happier and better in our fight week and all the camp and the fights.”

Grasso says there’s no more need for saunas or starving herself during fight week and that her weight cut is mostly comprised of working the pounds off during training. The lack of stress has actually made the cut easier for her.

With three wins in the flyweight division, Grasso is inching towards a meeting with Shevchenko, a bout that she said she’s willing to take sooner rather than later should Shevchenko’s upcoming challenger Taila Santos be forced to withdraw from UFC 275 on June 11 for any reason.

And she likes her chances of pulling off an upset.

“Yes, of course,” Grasso said. “I have a lot of experience like her, but I’m working so hard and I’ve seen Brandon Moreno talk all that when you work hard. When you have a vision. When you’re doing everything that it requires to be there you can achieve it, so I’m believing in myself, I’m working so damn hard to be ready for facing Valentina. I respect her so much and it would be an honor to face her.”

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