When the UFC decided to implement the women’s flyweight division in 2017, the response was a sigh of relief from many fighters. Too many of them were either too small to compete at 135 pounds or struggle mightily to make 115-pound weight limit.
The biggest winner of them all in this scenario was Valentina Shevchenko.
The “Bullet”, who challenges Nicco Montano for the flyweight championship at UFC 228 had been considered a natural 125-pounder when she made her UFC debut at the end of 2015. But, the company didn’t have the division and she was forced to compete at bantamweight. Luckily for Shevchenko, her natural skills helped offset the disadvantages of being the smaller woman. She is a 17-time Muay Thai and K1 world champion. Combined with her MMA record, Shevchenko is a staggering 71-5. She just wished the UFC had started the latest weight classes sooner instead of later.
“If this weight class had been around when I entered the UFC, there’s no doubt I would have fought at this weight class,” Shevchenko told Sporting News. “When I signed with the UFC, I only had two options; go to 115 or to 135. 115 pounds isn’t an option for me, so I chose 135 pounds. Every time I fought at bantamweight, I didn’t cut any weight and every girl was bigger than me. That was okay though. I was still very good and I fought for the title, but I’m very happy to see the UFC finally make the flyweight division for me.”
Right after the UFC announced in July that Shevchenko would be facing Montano, people felt this would be a walk in the park for her because of what she’s done in her combat sports career. The odds have reflected that sentiment as sportsbookreview.com installed Shevchenko as the largest betting favorite for a UFC title challenger at -2344.
While the 30-year-old finds it flattering so many think she’s going to walk away with the belt, she remains headstrong on what lies ahead.
“It is a fact that so many people expect me to win, but in my mind and head, I’m focused on my preparation,” Shevchenko said. “Of course, it’s very nice that people have a lot of faith in me, but the most important thing is how I feel. I know that I’m ready and very prepared for what Nicco will bring to me. I’ve waited for this fight for a long time. Saturday, I will put everything that I’ve worked on into the Octagon. The main goal that I have is to win the fight and I will do everything I can to finish her.”
Throughout the entire build to UFC 228 and as late as Wednesday, Shevchenko’s (15-3) has questioned whether Montano will actually show up. Now that we are less than 24 hours away from weigh-ins, Shevchenko is coy about the matter. Ultimately, she wants Montano to do what is required of and make the walk to the cage.
“Anything can happen,” Shevchenko firmly said. “You cannot know at the very last moment when everything is about to be done. I hope everything will be fine and she comes to fight. But, let’s see how it will turn out. I hope that we will meet inside the Octagon on Saturday so we can do our job.”
Going into UFC 228, Shevchenko feels she’s just as strong mentally and physically at flyweight than she ever was as a bantamweight. She also feels more comfortable facing Montano because, unlike her fight with 135-pound champion Amanda Nunes at UFC 215, they will be the same size.
“I have the same preparation because I prepare the strongest I can for every opponent,” Shevchenko states. “To make the fight easier, you have to train and concentrate very hard. I’m going do anything to win. If I have to win in the standup, I will do it. If it’s on the ground, I will do it. I am a complete fighter. It doesn’t matter what I have to do. I will do it and finish her to become the champion.”