UFC 255’s Valentina Shevchenko: “Fighting By Itself Is Already Pressure”

There’s no extra pressure for Valentina Shevchenko to put on a dominant performance against Jennifer Maia at UFC 255 — because fighting alone is pressure enough

UFC women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko returns at UFC 255, defending her title against Jennifer Maia in the co-main event of the PPV card.

As title defenses go, Shevchenko will enter the fight a heavy favorite. Maia jumped into the title picture with a short-notice defeat of Joanne Calderwood earlier this year. That moved her to 3-1 in her past four fights, but Maia isn’t even on a win streak heading into this title bout. Meanwhile, a former champ in Jessica Andrade made a big arrival in the flyweight division just weeks ago. And Lauren Murphy has been surging.

For Shevchenko (19-3), who will be making the fourth defense of her 125lb title, there’s no added pressure to win impressively on Saturday. Because “every fight is a lot of responsibility. It’s a lot of pressure,” the champ admitted during the UFC 255 media day this week.

Of course, she’s never been the type of person to just go into the octagon wanting to enjoy the experience. Rather, “I’m training very hard to make my performance the best,” she said. “There is no extra pressure. Fighting by itself is already pressure.”

While fighting alone might be pressure enough, Shevchenko has become one of the UFC’s higher-profile stars. Thanks in no small part to joining Halle Berry on the movie Bruised. But at the same time, “Bullet” has managed to keep a level head and maintain her focus.

That, she said, is because she knows “exactly how to manage everything. I know what is primary, I know what is secondary.” That includes knowing when to focus and disconnect from distractions, and knowing when to “be more open for the people, to show more of yourself. I know the right time for each of the actions. This is what helps me a lot.”

With Shevchenko the inaugural women’s flyweight champion in the UFC, it’s only a matter of time before the usual suspects begin pushing her to move to another weight class, and capture a second title. Of course, Shevchenko has a history at bantamweight already, where she twice lost to current champ Amanda Nunes.

“My goal at this moment is to defend my belt as long as I can,” the Kyrgyzstani fighter stated. At the same time, she noted, “everything is open.” Pursuits in other weight classes remain on the table, in other words. “It just has to be the right fight, right opponent, right time.”

UFC 255 takes place Saturday, November 21 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main card airs live on PPV following online and televised prelims.