Valentina Shevchenko is content to stay at 125 pounds for now, especially with other fighters showing just how strong the division is.
At UFC Long Island, one-time flyweight title challenger Lauren Murphy put on the best performance of her career, stifling former bantamweight champion Miesha Tate en route to a unanimous decision victory. The outcome derailed plans for Tate to serve as the next title challenger for Shevchenko’s belt, a bout that would have been huge for the champion, but “Bullet” says she’s happy with the result nonetheless.
“This is real proof of how hard and how strong flyweight division is,’ Shevchenko told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “Because Lauren Murphy, contender, fighter, and she just beat former UFC bantamweight champion. This is real proof, what else you can see.”
The women’s flyweight division is frequently the object of scorn as a weaker weight class, spurred on in part by Shevchenko’s dominance of it. The champion has had a stranglehold on the division for four years, with seven title defenses to her name and wins over almost all of the top contenders in the weight class. As such, many have speculated that following her win over Taila Santos at UFC 275, Shevchenko would move back up to bantamweight to challenge for a second title. However, the flyweight queen says that for now, she’s not interested in doing so.
“To fight at 135 right now, that means I have to build bigger muscles. I have to work on how to get myself bigger and then to work on how to get myself smaller to go back to flyweight, and I really don’t see why I need to do that,” Shevchenko said. “Give me some reasons. Big fight or whatever, but what else? I don’t see, at this moment, it’s really happening because I think flyweight is the weight where I will do my next title defense. Yeah, let’s see. I haven’t thought about it yet too clearly. It depends on what fight it’s going to be, how they will fight, and what they want to do.
“If, for example, when I go down to 125, it could be an option that I have to worry about my weight, putting more weight on myself and feel comfortable, strong and speedy, and very fast, and this is a lot of things to think about. But I feel comfortable right now at this moment, without doing extra cutting or extra adding weight, and I would like to stay healthy as I am right now and continue this journey for the moment.”
This is a change of pace for Shevchenko, who earlier this year said it was possible she could challenge for the bantamweight title before year’s end, and could come as a result of her scare against Taila Santos last month. Shevchenko managed to eke out a split decision win in a hard-fought battle with Santos at UFC 275, and said afterwards the she struggled to deal with Santos’ size and strength, particularly given that she herself only weighed in around 130 pounds on fight night. But just because she’s putting bantamweight plans on pause for now, doesn’t mean she’s abandoned the pursuit entirely.
“I am still ready. I’m still considering this opportunity,” Shevchenko said. “I still want to do it, but the right timing, the right moment, the right place, the right circumstances, the right conditions. Everything has to be perfect. And before we reach that, everything on point, I don’t feel it makes sense for me...
“I think for now, next fight is going to be next title defense for the flyweight division. Especially now because right now you can really see how many strong opponents and strong contenders in flyweight.”
So with Shevchenko intent on staying at 125 for now, that just leaves the question of who is next for her? “Bullet” has defeated nearly everyone at the top of the 125 pound rankings, leaving no obvious contenders. Some have suggested an immediate rematch with Santos, but she is recovering from surgery to repair a broken orbital bone that will leave her sidelined for some time. Shevchenko hopes to return for another fight before the end of the year, and when she does, she’s not too concerned about who it will be against.
“I don’t know. I never think about who they will put next for me,” Shevchenko said. “I usually like when the contract comes into my hands, that’s how I know who is my opponent. This is not my occupation to think about who is next. It’s the occupation of the UFC. They will know... It’s not my headache.”