After a pair of razor-close fights in two previous encounters, Shevchenko appeared destined to clash with Nunes again. But that changed in June following Nunes’ lopsided win over Irene Aldana at UFC 289, when she abruptly retired.
“At that moment, I was kind of emotionless,” Shevchenko told MMA Fighting about her reaction to Nunes’ retirement. “It’s actually a little bit surprised me. Not because why she did it. I understand why she did it. She had so long this constant pressure, physical, mental pressure, it’s very hard to continue, keep going, and maybe after all she’s done in the sport, she just wanted to have some quiet and free time with her family without thinking, ‘I have to go to the gym and put all [of that into] my performance at 100 percent.’
“It’s understandable, but [I’m still] surprised because she’s young. She is in great shape, and you still have another few title defenses. You can still do it. It’s that type of surprise, but in the same way, I understand the decision. It’s kind of like I don’t think no one has to judge it because she did amazing. She did great things.”
Nunes’ retirement would seemingly nix any hope Shevchenko of avenging her two previous losses, though the former UFC flyweight champion isn’t completely sold on that.
Because MMA fighters so routinely call it a career only to announce a comeback months or sometimes even years later, Shevchenko won’t close the door on facing Nunes again.
She’s seen it happen too many times before to totally discount the chance that Nunes gets the itch to fight again and Shevchenko promises she’ll still be waiting.
“I still think that there is opportunity,” Shevchenko said. “Now she has a little bit of rest, a little bit of calm and after a year or two she decides to come back to the fight business and I am planning to be around as well. So yes, I still think it’s an opportunity.
“I’m not saying she will come back but she might come back. We might still see that.”
Shevchenko understands how hard it can be for a fighter to walk away for good, especially for somebody like Nunes, who was still on top of the world when she decided to hang up her gloves.
“This is what fighters miss the most, that feeling when they step into the octagon,” Shevchenko said. “When they go through the fight week, when they go through all the crowds, they walk out to the octagon, and it’s why they come back from retirement and why they continue to [fight].”