UFC Star Valentina Shevchenko Discusses Her New Weight Class, Nicco Montano, And Traveling [Exclusive]

Matthew StockmanGetty Images

Anyone who has followed Valentina Shevchenko’s fight career knows that she is well-rounded. That is the case inside and outside of the UFC octagon. Valentina Shevchenko studied at the University of Arts Kyrgyzstan in her native country.

Valentina Shevchenko is understandably coy about what she studied at the university. Shevchenko simply stated she took up martial arts. Judging from her social media presence, which highlights her keen eye for photography, one would believe that there is more to Valentina Shevchenko the fighter than meets the eye. It is clear that Shevchenko keeps a low profile in some settings. However, she becomes engaging and intriguing while maintaining her mystique.

At the outset, one can get a glimpse of the aura Valentina Shevchenko presents. When paying close attention, Shevchenko shows several facets of her personality. Aside from her all-business approach to training and fighting, there are several layers to Valentina Shevchenko, who is the UFC’s No. 1 ranked women’s flyweight.

Outside of her training, Valentina Shevchenko enjoys traveling. Valentina Shevchenko took a trip the Riverwalk and braved the chilly waters at the beach during her UFC and Modelo co-branded promotional trip to Chicago.

Valentina Shevchenko remarked about how traveling has always brought her peace. One would not know that Valentina Shevchenko has been a fighter since the age of 12. What an outsider does not get to see is that Valentina Shevchenko the fighter is as balanced in life as they come.

null

Valentina Shevchenko’s road to MMA originally began when she trained as a Muay Thai fighter. Shevchenko’s kickboxing career is widely known. In the Muay Thai ranks, Shevchenko would go on to have a total of 58 fights, with her hand being raised in all but two. After a while, it was clear that Valentina Shevchenko would be a natural as an MMA fighter.

In the UFC, now a flyweight, Valentina Shevchenko has fought predominantly as a bantamweight. Competing against women who were naturally bigger came with the territory for Shevchenko. The UFC recently created the 125-pound weight class as a go-between. It is a weight class that is barely a year in its existence.

Valentina Shevchenko hopes to make the 125-pound weight class hers. Shevchenko remembers a short time ago that women competing in the UFC only had two choices — fight as a strawweight where there is a 115-pound limit or compete at 135. That is no longer the case. In an effort to provide a myriad of matchups, while creating an opportunity for competitors who were too small for bantamweight, yet too big for strawweight, the new division was formed.

Flyweight is where Valentina Shevchenko belongs and will be able to flourish. Not that she did not thrive at the 135-pound limit, but as unflinching Valentina Shevchenko admits, “she gets to fight women her size.”

null

Valentina Shevchenko sheds light in moving down in weight, along with what her fans should expect from her next.

Ernest Shepard: I saw your last fight. It was a totally dominant performance. One of the things that I think translated well was your power and speed. Did you notice a difference with you fighting at the 125 [flyweight] division?

Valentina Shevchenko: Not much of a difference. My training camp was the same. It was the same kind of work, the same kind of training and preparation. It is different when you are fighting with the same opponents who are the same size. Some [in the bantamweight class] are bigger, taller, and have longer arms and legs, it’s very different. This is what I think is the biggest difference in the weight classes. When you know you are fighting someone bigger you have to think because any kind of error can be your last one. That’s why you cannot go and risk everything. If you risk everything, you can lose. It’s 50-50. At 125 you can put more.

ES: One of the other things that I noticed with you fighting at flyweight, your striking accuracy increased tremendously. Was that attributed to being able and be comfortable?

VS: My striking and stand-up game is my favorite, but I am a multifaceted fighter. This is my primary style.

ES: You are in a weight class with a lot of competition. Is there someone coming up in the ranks that you have your eye on? Someone who has you looking back in a couple of years saying, “I have to watch out for her?”

VS: For now, I am concentrated on the present. My next fight will be for the [flyweight] title. I’m just waiting for an agreement from my opponent [Nicco Montano] because every time she says yes and then she will say no. It is the most difficult thing that is happening right now. This is it. I’m ready to fight anyone. Every time there will be someone who is very good and who you have to be careful with. The only thing that I know is every day I will work and get better each day. I am going to put in the hard work every time. This is it. I will be training hard.

ES: You brought up Nicco Montano. There were talks, according to MMA Mania about the two of you fighting for the title at UFC Calgary. You are said that it’s her holding up the talks. Is that bothering you a little bit?

VS: I am not going to put my emotions in there because I know that it will not help move things. It would not be very helpful for me to that. Every time you put in your emotions you start to put more things into the fight. You have to be careful of this. I will take this situation like it is, very cool. I know the day will come. I will be ready for that day and there is nothing more. Thinking about Nicco [Montano], I sit back with her playing games, trying to make it farther than she can. She’s thinking maybe Valentina will get upset and will try to find her next fight with someone else, and let’s see what will happen with that fight. It’s childish games. We should be more professional as fighters than this.

ES: Watching how you conduct yourself in and out of the octagon, you seem pretty unflappable. There was a situation that came up last year at UFC 217 with your rematch with Amanda Nunes. Have you given any consideration about going back to 135 to settle the score with Amanda Nunes?

VS: I’ve thought about, but right now I am focused on 125. I want to be the best that I can be at 125. Afterward, I see the possibility to go up.

ES: Because one of your biggest rivals is considering moving up to 125, you versus Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the flyweight title. Is that something you are looking forward to once you take care of business with Nicco Montano?

VS: This is one of many possibilities that can happen. We have our history. We have fought three times as Muay Thai fighters. This is our fight history. We can start our MMA history. I cannot say definitely. I am a person who focuses on one fight. I take whatever comes. If it [fighting Joanna Jedrzejczyk] comes, I will take it.

The fight that Valentina Shevchenko wants and eventually will get is a title shot against Nicco Montano. It has taken a little longer for the negotiations to be completed, however, MMA Junkie is reporting that the tentative date for Valentina Shevchenko to fight Nicco Montano is set for September 8. Valentina’s title shot will take place at UFC 228. According to Valentina Shevchenko, she is ready for her chance to win the 125-pound belt.

null

Although Valentina Shevchenko enjoys traveling and training, she does not enjoy having to wait for her turn. When it comes, however, Valentina Shevchenko will be ready. In Valentina Shevchenko’s own words, she is always ready.