A seven-fight championship reign came to an end after Shevchenko threw an ill-fated spinning back kick, which led to a takedown from Grasso followed by a rear-naked choke submission. It had been almost six years since Shevchenko last tasted defeat, and it was the first time she had ever truly been finished in an MMA fight (a previous TKO loss to Liz Carmouche came due to a cut suffered during a fight Shevchenko was winning).
Despite winning the majority of the fight, Shevchenko’s mistake cost her everything. So she’s been confused by the growing narrative that Grasso was destined to beat her because she’s lost a step, or perhaps that her time as one of the most dominant champions in the UFC has finally passed.
“She had one successful shot maybe in the first round,” Shevchenko told MMA Fighting. “This shot was caught on cameras and now everyone is looking at this shot only without watching all the fight and saying all this stuff they can bring it up. It was not like that. It’s kind of like one moment, but unfortunately this moment defines the whole result.
“I was winning the fight. This is what is MMA. MMA it’s a hard fight style, it’s a very hard fight game. Sometimes this happens, but the most important thing is that I have the opportunity to make everything right, how it’s supposed to be the first time.”
While some past UFC champions have said losing the belt was almost a weight off their shoulders due to the attention and pressure that comes along with that level of status, Shevchenko never counted herself in that group.
A UFC title didn’t necessarily define Shevchenko’s existence, but it was a status symbol that she was the best in the world, which has been her goal in martial arts since she first started fighting. Losing her belt just made Shevchenko want it back that much more.
“I actually don’t understand people who are saying it was kind of a relief losing the belt,” Shevchenko said. “I really don’t understand. Because it’s not a relief. It’s extra pressure because you have to get it back now. If you ask me what I choose, I choose pressure with the belt.”
The desire to become champion again might only be trumped by Shevchenko’s need to avenge the loss to Grasso. Shevchenko holds no ill will toward the 30-year-old Mexican fighter, but she wants to wash the bad taste of defeat from her mouth.
One of Shevchenko’s defining characteristics during her nearly eight-year run with the UFC has been the scary focus and determination she’s carried into her fights. She almost transforms into an assassin in the cage, devoid of emotion until the job is done.
This time around, Shevchenko promises she won’t carry any unnecessary anger or aggression into the cage, but a renewed sense of purpose to eliminate Grasso at any cost.
“I’m not playing around,” Shevchenko said. “I’ll just go there, my goal — enter the octagon, finish, destroy my opponent, take my belt back and continue what I have to continue.”
Call it her doomsday approach to the Grasso rematch, because Shevchenko has no desire to even contemplate what comes next for her until after this fight is over.
Yes, Shevchenko will continue fighting past Saturday, but by all accounts, that’s the last night of her life until she vanquishes Grasso once and for all.
“For me, there is no after,” Shevchenko explained. “There is no Sunday. There is no Monday after that following Saturday. For me, I live only with this day. It’s kind of like I’m not having plans what’s going to be next. Everything for me, all of my concentration, all my determination, all my power, force, mentality, character, spirit, it all goes to Sept. 16.
“Slowly and surely, we’re going to approach Sept. 16, and I will be ready for that date. I will be ready to take what is mine.”
And for the naysayers who have said her time is done, Shevchenko only has one message to deliver to them.
“The end is when I decide and it’s not going to be any time very soon,” Shevchenko said. “I’m going to be fighting while I feel like fighting. I want to fight. I want to win this belt and I will win this belt.”