The Mexican talent choked “Bullet” to claim the flyweight championship this past March in Las Vegas, a massive upset odds-wise. She’s still the underdog going into the rematch on Sept. 16 but not in such a wide margin like the first time, and hopes to silence more doubters with an impeccable performance.
“I would love to knock her out, but I would also like to submit her again with a rear-naked choke so people don’t think it was luck, a mistake or anything like that,” Grasso said on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca, an interview set up by her sponsor Stake. “I had my plan really clear. I knew she was going to turn, and that was it. It could end by submission, it could be a knockout, but I will win [laughs].”
Shevchenko had trouble in her previous title defense against Taila Santos, almost losing via submission before winning a close decision, and was unbeaten in nine straight flyweight bouts going into her clash with Grasso. The new UFC champion said she learned more about herself than Shevchenko in March, feeling more than confident going into the rematch.
“[I learned] that I’m also strong, that I’m capable, that I’m not an easy fight for anyone,” Grasso said. “I already have a lot of knockouts [on my record], but now I felt what is like to submit a person. I was close to that before but it didn’t happen, but now I want to submit more. I learned a lot about myself [in that fight], that I’m strong, that I’m capable, that you can achieve anything you want.”
“The bigger the challenge, the harder you have to work and leave it all in there,” she continued. “I knew she was a great fighter. Her history was not done overnight, you know? She worked for years, so it was very important for me to finish this fight because I’m equally disciplined and respectful. I work really, really hard. My work speaks for itself. To be able to submit the champion is only the beginning of my history. I respect her a lot, she’s done many important things that I also want to do.”
Grasso vs. Shevchenko 2 will not take place in Mexico soil but on Mexican Independance Day, and the Guadalajara-born star sees the bright side of not competing on a pay-per-view event.
“It’s something huge for me,” Grasso said. “I was the main event once but on a small card at the APEX, and now it’s the T-Mobile Arena, a huge arena. And it’s important that it’s not a pay-per-view because that way many people in Mexico will be able to watch it. I’d love to fight in Mexico but it wasn’t possible, so the good side is that many people will be able to travel to watch the fight and that makes me happy. September 16 is very important for Mexico, so I like being an example of how to really fight for your dreams.”
Make mistake about it, though: Grasso wants her next title defense to take place in her home country.
“I’m happy, I’m treated really well by the UFC,” she said. “I told them I’ll give my all so next time there’s a pay-per-view, preferably in Mexico. They said, ‘Ok, this is your first test’ [laughs].”