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Valentina Shevchenko is looking to add some more hardware to her trophy case.
The flyweight champion and No. 1 ranked fighter in the MMA Fighting Pound-For-Pound rankings is set to defend her title against Taila Santos at UFC 275 in June. If she wins, it will be her seventh straight title defense.
With such a reign of dominance, “Bullet” believes the UFC may finally give her another shot at the 135-pound title.
“I think so,” Shevchenko told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour when asked if a move back to 135 was in her future. “There is always the chance. Definitely the bigger fight, the better.
Shevchenko was one of the best bantamweights in the world before the UFC created the flyweight division; she lost a controversial split decision to Amanda Nunes for the title at UFC 215. Things have changed dramatically since then, however, with Nunes losing the belt to Julianna Peña in December in one of the biggest upsets in MMA history. Shevchenko was not as taken aback as others were.
“I was not in shock,” she said. “Of course it was surprising, but I didn’t see Amanda in the same fight shape as she used to be in the fight. For example, when we fought together she was completely different eyes, different everything. In the Julianna fight she was a little bit more relaxed. I don’t know how she prepared for this fight, but she looked different.”
Prior to the fight, fans were calling for another matchup between Shevchenko and Nunes, and Shevchenko also made it known that she was interested. Peña’s win put a stop to that.
The flyweight champ now hopes it was only a delay, as Peña and Nunes are set to rematch in July at UFC 277. She has history with both women with a pair of losses to Nunes and a submission win over Peña.
“I think it’s just on standby, before July,” Shevchenko said. “This is where they booked the rematch. I think it’s inevitable. Or if [she loses] it will be Julianna Peña. We fought Julianna a few years ago, I submitted her with an armbar, and now people are definitely bringing up her name more frequently.”
Of course, a bantamweight title shot is far from guaranteed at this point. Depending on the outcome, the UFC could look to book a trilogy fight between Peña and Nunes, or they could be more interested in Ketlen Vieira, who just defeated Holly Holm, getting a crack at the bantamweight strap. And even though Shevchenko has beaten almost all of the top opposition in the flyweight division, there are still some fights there that could be worthwhile.
Still, “Bullet” believes she will be getting a shot at a second title before the year is over.
“I think by the end of the year it’s going to be a good fight,” Shevchenko said. “But also we have to see — Miesha Tate is coming to 125 in July. So many things can happen, many things can change. So yeah, I think it’s possible. It’s very, very, very possible.”
Shevchenko defends her flyweight title against Taila Santos in the co-main event of UFC 275 on June 11 in Kallang, Singapore.