At the time of Valentina Shevchenko’s UFC debut back in 2015, the promotion was without a women’s flyweight division. Shevchenko found her initial calling at bantamweight, defeating three of her first four opponents en route to her first shot at capturing UFC gold.
In only her fifth fight in the promotion, Shevchenko challenged Amanda Nunes in “The Lioness’” second title defense. Despite losing the bout via split decision, Shevchenko never lost sight on what she wanted to attain: a UFC title.
Three months later, Shevchenko saw a door to a new opportunity with the arrival of the women’s flyweight division. The inaugural title fight was held at the conclusion of the 26th season of The Ultimate Fighter, which saw Nicco Montano defeat Roxanne Modafferi to become the first UFC women’s flyweight champion.
Montano was stripped of her title 10 months later, leaving the title vacant. During her reign as champion, Shevchenko picked up an impressive win of her own, submitting Priscila Cachoeira in the second round of her 125-pound debut.
The win put her next in line to challenge for the vacant flyweight title against former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231: Holloway vs Ortega. Shevchenko proved why she was championship caliber, defeating Jedrzejczyk via unanimous decision and capturing UFC gold for the first time in her career. Since that night, Shevchenko continues to etch her name in the history books, defending her title seven times in five years, defeating the likes of Jessica Andrade, Jennifer Maia and Katlyn Chookagian. Despite her accolades, Shevchenko continues to search for quality over quantity.
“Once you start to count or see your numbers and statistics, it will take over you and you’re going to completely drown deep down through all these thoughts,” Shevchenko said. “This is what I didn’t want to do. I want to just continue to compete well, and when I leave the Octagon, I’ll leave the Octagon with feeling that I did everything to win that fight.
“Discipline and consistency [is key]. You have to keep your discipline all the time. Not only discipline coming into training but also training with a lot of quality. No matter if you fail or you improve, you do it all over again.”
Valentina Shevchenko | Top Finishes
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Valentina Shevchenko | Top Finishes
Her latest title defense came in the co-main event at UFC 275: Teixeira vs Prochazka in Singapore, where Shevchenko faced her toughest flyweight challenger to date in Taila Santos. Even though Shevchenko pulled through and won the bout via split decision, the first by that method since becoming champion, Santos forced Shevchenko to dig deep until the last minute.
Securing 100 percent of her takedown attempts, Santos took the champion’s back on numerous occasions, constantly trying to lock in submissions. Shevchenko weathered that storm, however, and took over in the championship rounds.
UFC 285 COUNTDOWN: Shevchenko vs Grasso
For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s an easy fight or where I have to work a little bit,” Shevchenko said. “Every time I take something to improve and add into my game. I did everything that I had to do in this fight. I showed why I’m still the champion because no matter how difficult a situation can be, you will find a way to succeed. This is what’s most important because only the character of a real champion will go through this. Other [fighters], they’re going to break. They’re going to break because of fame, because of pressure, because of something, but a true champion will go forward and never stop and that’s what I showed in that fight.”
Over the last 10 months, Shevchenko’s traveled the world to challenge herself and learn from elite martial artists in different countries. After starting her training in Kyrgyzstan, Shevchenko checked Japan off her bucket list and spent months exploring the country while developing her skills alongside champions of Japanese MMA organizations before returning to her current home in Las Vegas.
“Martials arts, for me, it’s my way of life,” Shevchenko said. “I started when I was a very young girl, like the age of five years old. It’s formed me as a person and it’s how I look into the world… Martial arts for me is my lifestyle, my life and philosophy.
“Japan was on my list of countries that I wanted to visit for a long time. I was reading a lot about this country. In my youth I competed in a lot of Japanese martial arts such as Judo, Karate…it was definitely something that I wanted to look at from the inside. The timing worked so fine with everything. We went there for months to have amazing quality training.”
This Saturday, Shevchenko tries to earn her eighth successful title defense against Alexa Grasso at UFC 285: Jones vs Gane at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. A victory would move Shevchenko to fifth all-time in UFC title defenses, surpassing Jose Aldo (7) and moving one place behind Georges St-Pierre (9). Grasso boasts a perfect flyweight record of 4-0 since moving up from strawweight in 2020, including victories over Maycee Barber, Joanne Wood and Viviane Araujo in her first UFC main event last October.
Despite a well-rounded attack that’s finished her opponents on the feet and on the mat, Grasso’s bread and butter is her boxing. Shevchenko recognizes Grasso’s abilities on the feet, but believes that her wide array of martial arts techniques will be critical in the outcome of Saturday’s co-main event.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in front of me,” Shevchenko said. “They have their own style, their own history on how they became a martial artist. Alexa is a strong opponent, a strong fighter [and] complete fighter…I trained very hard for this fight. I did everything to prepare myself physically and mentally on the top level, and there is only one goal: to have success in my title defense and keep moving forward.
“She’s coming from the background of striking, a lot of boxing. It’s not a secret for anyone. We are not fighting boxing, we’re fighting MMA. It doesn’t mean she won’t use any MMA technique. Same with me; I will use everything that brings me victory and everything that’s going to help me finish the fight as soon as I can.
“New faces, new blood, new challenges; it’s exactly what I wanted and what the division needs. Here I am to show, no matter who you are, I’m still the champion and I will be here forever.”
UFC 285: Jones vs Gane took place live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 4, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!