Shevchenko, Jedrzejczyk meet for UFC flyweight belt
LOS ANGELES — Valentina Shevchenko and Joanna Jedrzejczyk were teenagers when they first fought at the muay Thai world championships in 2006.
They met again in 2007 and 2008. Shevchenko won every time.
A decade later, the fighters are meeting once again Saturday night, this time under the bigger, brighter spotlight of mixed martial arts at UFC 231.
Shevchenko won’t go into this high-profile flyweight title fight with any false confidence, not after everything Jedrzejczyk has accomplished since their first bouts. Yet Shevchenko still thinks those long-ago results will make a difference in the octagon in Toronto.
“She can say that it’s not affecting her, but yes, it’s affecting her,” Shevchenko said. “Fighters can say whatever, but what they’re feeling inside, it’s totally different. It’s affecting everyone, for sure. Of course it was years ago. Of course she changed and improved as a fighter, same as me. All experience will help, and each experience I got from that fight will help me in this fight.”
The rekindling of this long-standing rivalry could be exactly what the UFC needs in the women’s flyweight division, which has been in upheaval pretty much ever since it opened last year. Shevchenko is eager to establish order among the world’s best 125pounders while earning the UFC belt that has long eluded her.
To get it, Shevchenko (15-3) still has to get through Jedrzejczyk (15-2), the former strawweight champion moving up to claim a second title.
Shevchenko realizes the difficulty of her task, but she can also see her ultimate goal is just five rounds away.
“No one else can pretend to be the best here, because this is my weight,” Shevchenko said. “This is my division. This is my place.”
Shevchenko has been looking for her place all her life.