‘I’m Going to Destroy Her’: Valentina Shevchenko Has No Doubts About Defending Title

Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated

Valentina Shevchenko is not shy or timid about revealing the game plan for her fight against Lauren Murphy.

Standup, on the mat, or wherever else it may go, Shevchenko has just one goal for Saturday: complete domination.

“I will go there, break my opponent, take the belt, and go back home,” says Shevchenko. “That’s what I am preparing to do. That is what I will do.

“I know this level of competition is the top level. There are no easy or weak opponents, and everyone brings danger to the fights. I train to be capable to stop my opponent and do what I have to do to win the fight. I know my opponent will be strong, but I am going to destroy her.”
Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

As UFC’s reigning women’s flyweight champion, Shevchenko has won 14 of her last 16 bouts. Both blemishes are courtesy of the seemingly unstoppable Amanda Nunes, who defeated her in 2016 by unanimous decision, and then again in 2017 by split decision in a five-round fight.

Shevchenko does not believe in moral victories, and those defeats still eat away at her. “It’s not just sport for me,” she says. “It’s my lifestyle, my life, my passion, my religion. It makes me alive.” Always competing to win, the 33-year-old believes that will happen if she gets Nunes in the cage one more time. “I know it will happen someday, and I am ready for it. My only doubt is whether the other side wants to do it.”

An afterthought in the Shevchenko discussion is this week’s opponent. Murphy is a massive underdog, and though she respects Murphy’s skillset, Shevchenko refuses to consider any outcome other than victory. She has been training in martial arts since she was five, and her work Saturday will be the result of nearly 30 years of sweat, blood and toil.

“It wasn’t easy to get here,” says Shevchenko, who noted that there is quite a difference between Las Vegas, where UFC 266 will be hosted, and her native Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. “I put my whole soul into this. That’s why I am in UFC. My goal is to be champion and hold that position for a very long time. I know exactly what I have to do to do that, and that’s what I’m doing right now.

“I am who I am because of martial arts. It’s the most amazing thing that could happen to me. And every time I step into the Octagon, my motivation is to be a better martial artist than I was the last time.”

There are very few certainties in this world. Death and taxes are two, and a third is that fight fans will see Shevchenko dance the Lezginka after she mauls another opponent.

“No matter what I do, I want to be good at it and put my soul into it,” says Shevchenko, who plans on dancing again this Saturday. “Martial arts is my No. 1, but I have been dancing for a long time, too. That is my celebration dance, and I love to do it.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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