Valentina Shevchenko - Photo by Mazdak Cavian/MMAnytt

Valentina Shevchenko Focused on Flyweight But Still Has ‘Unfinished Business’ with Amanda Nunes

Valentina Shevchenko will make her UFC debut at 125 pounds this weekend but she's not closing the door on a return to bantamweight.

Valentina Shevchenko is widely considered the No. 1 contender in the UFC women’s bantamweight division and she earned that spot despite being out sized in every one of her fights inside the Octagon.

When first arriving in the UFC, Shevchenko only had the option to compete at 135 pounds, which is exactly what she did while rising up the ranks with wins over several top named fighters including former champion Holly Holm as well as “Ultimate Fighter” winner Julianna Pena.

Still it was undeniable that Shevchenko was giving up a lot of size and power to bigger opponents who were cutting a lot of weight to compete at bantamweight while she was basically walking around near 135 pounds at all times.

When the UFC finally decided to create a women’s flyweight division, it didn’t take long for Shevchenko to know that was going to be her new home.

Not only would she finally be facing fighters her own size but competing at 125 pounds would allow her the chance to take more risks and show more weapons without quite the same kind of retribution she may have faced taking those same chances against bigger and stronger opposition.

“When I heard that the UFC decided to create a new weight class at 125 [pounds], I was very happy because I knew that I will fight there. There was no doubt that I would go from 135 to 125. Every time you fight with a bigger opponent, heavier and [taller] opponent than me, sometimes you cannot show all your skills cause you have to be careful. To manage the distance, to manage the power, to manage everything,” Shevchenko explained when speaking to FloCombat.

“At 125, I will fight with the same sized opponents, with the same power opponents and sometimes it will be [taller] opponents than me but I know they won’t be heavier. This will make all the difference. I have a lot of skills I can show but because of the danger of the fight, I could not do because just one mistake, it can take everything. I could not do it. At 125, I will show more skills.”

For her first test at flyweight this weekend, Shevchenko draws newcomer Priscila Cachoeira, who comes to the UFC with an undefeated record albeit without facing the stiffest competition in her career.

On paper, Shevchenko is obviously expected to win this fight with odds makers putting her as an overwhelming 10-to-1 favorite to defeat Cachoeira on Saturday night.

None of that matters to Shevchenko who is treating Cachoeira with the same kind of respect that she had when taking on elite fighters in the bantamweight division during her UFC career. She knows anything less could result in Cachoeira pulling off the matssive upset.

“To be a newcomer in UFC it doesn’t mean nothing,” Shevchenko said. “Because one day I was the same newcomer to the UFC and I fought Sarah Kaufman. It totally doesn’t mean nothing. She’s a strong opponent because she’s unbeaten. She has eight fights, eight victories. She has very strong hands, very strong head, so I see her as a dangerous opponent. That’s why I’m preparing the best I can, to show a very good and very skillful and very aggressive fight.

“I don’t think it will be an easy fight all. She will not stop until I have to stop her.”

As far as the future goes, Shevchenko knows a win will likely put her one step closer towards a battle against flyweight champion Nicco Montano later this year although that hasn’t been guaranteed to her just yet.

Still, Shevchenko knows she won’t be far away from title contention with a win and then hopefully she can become champion and one day avenge her only two losses in the UFC to current women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes.

“Right now, I’m planning on having some fights at 125, then we have unfinished business,” Shevchenko said about Nunes. “I will go back to 135 and we will fight again.”

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Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the industry since 2003 with bylines on FOX Sports, CNN, Bleacher Report and numerous other outlets.