The surreal nature of fighting for a UFC world title is a little less surreal if it’s something you’ve been preparing for since you were four years old. That’s what Katlyn Chookagian is experiencing right now.
Chookagian is set to face one of the most dominant UFC champions on Saturday at UFC 247 when she makes her walk to the Octagon. It will also be her first shot at the title and first five-round fight in the UFC. But even under those circumstances - and standing across the cage from Valentina Shevchenko – Chookagian is unfazed.
“I’ve been training my whole life. I started at four years old and my older brother was a black belt so I wanted to be there,” Chookagian said. “Whether I was in basic MMA class, I always wanted to be the best. Then tournaments, then boxing. Whatever level I was at I always had that push.
“When I started fighting MMA and was an amateur I knew I wanted to be best in the world. That’s always been my goal and if I didn’t see myself as being the best I don’t think I would’ve pursued MMA so strongly.”
Chookagian’s drive from her early days of competition has carried over into professional MMA. She’s 13-2 (5-2 in the UFC) and both of her losses were split decisions. Coincidentally, her only two defeats have come against Shevchenko’s last two challengers.
So what sets Chookagian apart from those who haven’t been able to unseat Shevchenko? First off, this isn’t her first experience with a belt on the line. Chookagian fought twice – and won – for the CFFC championship. One of those fights went the full five-round distance, so preparing for a potential five-round battle with Shevchenko isn’t anything new.
“I had three five-round fights before UFC, so this isn’t my first time, which was very helpful,” Chookagian said. “Besides that, training has been the same, I spar a couple more rounds but everything I’ve been doing in camps previous to this has been working.”
The only thing that’s been different for this camp has been the obligations of participating in a UFC pay-per-view title fight. Chookagian has even turned that into a positive, saying that having a full schedule, with media obligations, has kept her busy and kept her mind off constantly thinking about Saturday.
As for what’s set to go down in the Octagon on Saturday, like Shevchenko, Chookagian is prepared for any type of fight. She knows her and the champ are both comfortable standing and on the ground, and whatever happens, she will be ready.
“I’ve been visualizing this fight since even before the UFC,” Chookagian said. “When she (Shevchenko) became champ I’ve been visualizing it with her but I’ve visualized being a world champ for many years. So to finally be here is surreal and I keep waiting for the moment where it feels intense. Right now it feels like any other fight, which I think is a good thing. I’m not putting it on a pedestal, but I’m also taking it very seriously.”
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