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Valentina Shevchenko suggests referee Jason Herzog may have contributed to Alexa Grasso loss at UFC 285

Valentina Shevchenko has some questions for referee Jason Herzog.

At UFC 285, the longtime flyweight champion lost her title when Alexa Grasso pulled off an incredible fourth-round submission, countering a spinning back kick from Shevchenko by jumping on the champion’s back and locking in a rear-naked choke. That failed attack immediately drew comparisons to legendary backfires in MMA history like Chris Weidman’s spinning kick against Luke Rockhold and Chael Sonnen’s spinning backfist attempt against Anderson Silva. But despite what ended up happening, Shevchenko doesn’t regret the decision; instead, she seems to have some issues with Herzog.

“It’s hard to say I shouldn’t throw that spinning back kick,” Shevchenko said Monday on The MMA Hour. “It’s a very powerful kick. It’s a very strong kick. I’ve done so many knockouts with this spinning back kick. It’s just the situation. It’s the fourth round and you feel not as fresh as the first round, and some actions of the referee could have provoked this tiredness that I felt during the fourth round. It’s the situation.

“Definitely it’s an error, it’s a mistake, but at the same time, it’s hard to say, ‘Oh my God, this is huge, huge mistake.’ Definitely it’s huge because it’s a loss, but it’s not something that I cannot deal [with, or] will bring me so much down and I will be upset.”

Generally regarded as one of the best referees in MMA, Herzog has been the referee for both of Shevchenko’s most recent fights — and the former champion isn’t particularly happy with his performances.

“You asked me how I felt during the fight, and now, thinking about that, I think some kind of small situation, like what happened in the fight could affect performance, or how you feel,” Shevchenko said. “For example, before right now, I never thought about this, but it’s very clear in my mind, a few actions that the referee did in the fight, I completely don’t understand why he did that. Because he was refereeing my two last fights, and first fight, with Taila [Santos] in Singapore, I thought it could be the situation or something like this, but there was a combination where I strike and ended the combination with a head kick, and I felt Taila [got hurt] and I wanted to finish the fight, but he stopped the fight and he let her breathe. I was like, ‘OK, this doesn’t sound right, but maybe it was just the situation.’

“But in this fight, we were on the ground position, I was in her guard and landing big shots over her, and he just decided to stand us up and continue the striking. It’s kind of the same situation where I say it could affect the fighter, what they do to take their opponent down. They spend so much energy to [score a] takedown first, and second to hold them down, and when you [get a takedown] you definitely want to use the situation because you spend so much energy. And when it was decided, ‘Oh no, in my opinion you don’t have to be there. You have to fight in the stand-up,’ it’s kind of working against you because it affects your performance, because you have to build the situation all over again.”

In both instances, there were reasons for Herzog’s intervention. Against Santos, Shevchenko landed a low blow immediately before landing the head kick, and Herzog was unable to intercede before Shevchenko landed the head kick.

Against Grasso, Herzog simply called for a standup after Shevchenko had held top position for nearly two minutes without improving position.

But Shevchenko doesn’t agree with Herzog’s calls, and the former champion even suggests that they ultimately could have played a role in the outcome of the fight.

“It could be a [combination] of all these little situations together, that’s why it happened, what happened at the end,” Shevchenko said. “This action is hard to understand for me why it was when it was, because when I watch the fight, it’s not my fault that Alexa couldn’t go out from that position, because I was holding her very tight, and in the moment I started to land big shots, he just decided to stand us up.”

“I don’t know. That’s why I’m saying, for me, it looks kind of surprising. Because yeah, this is my game plan and I want to keep this game plan, but someone says , ‘No, I don’t think it’s your game plan, you have to go up and stand,’ this kind of looks differently.”

Shevchenko isn’t trying to harp on it too much, though. Instead, the former champion is full steam ahead on reclaiming her title, whenever that opportunity does come.

“I’m unbreakable. It doesn’t matter what happened right now, it’s what kind of person you are and how you deal with this kind of struggle,” Shevchenko said. “I’m built differently. I’m built to fight, to do everything as a warrior, and this is what my mindset is right now. Now I don’t have to deal with all this stuff like media or like that, I just focus on my main goal.

“I hope the UFC will come and schedule the fight very soon. I’m not expecting the fight itself very soon, but I’m hoping it will be scheduled soon. Then I will have a date and it will be a goal, and I will slowly and surely start my way to come back.”

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